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Crime Of The Century - A Chilling Look At Crime Statistics In The UK


Following the introduction of the NCRS, the Audit Commission carried out a series of audits and found that compliance with the NCRS was not instantaneous but improved gradually over the following years. Despite the cessation of the full national audit programme in 2007/08, ongoing work on crime recording continues to consider data quality issues and the National Crime Recording Steering Group continues to promote consistent recording practice between forces.


An example where ongoing work on crime recording has raised an issue was for offences of grievous bodily harm (GBH). As reported last year, in April 2008 a clarification in the Home Office Counting Rules for GBH with intent was issued as part of the annual update of Counting Rules. This followed discussions at the National Crime Recording Steering Group which had identified inconsistencies in the recording of this category of crime.


Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary conducted a quality assurance exercise of all forces’ recording of offences of most serious violence (of which GBH with intent is a large component) and a report was published last year (HMIC, 2009).


A great deal of work in police forces alongside this exercise gave rise to revisions to 2008/09 data by some forces. These revisions were incorporated into previously published tables from last year’s annual bulletin in October 2009.


In the previously cited publication ‘Overcoming Barriers to Trust in Crime Statistics: England and Wales’ (UK Statistics Authority, 2010), the UK Statistics Authority recommended:


“The Home Office should publish a description of the steps currently taken (i) to ensure that police crime records result from the consistent application of the Counting Rules and (ii) to quality assure the statistics deriving from those records. It should supplement the steps in (i) as necessary, for example by spot checks or periodic external audit, in order to provide public reassurance of consistency.”


As well as the risk-based audit by HMIC referred to above, work has been done to develop guidance on audit and data quality in the form of a local audit manual. The Home Office is currently working with the UK Statistics Authority, the National Statistician and other government departments to address all of the recommendations in the Authority’s report.


Recorded crime figures provide a good measure of trends in well-reported crimes (in particular, homicide, which is not covered by the BCS), can be used for local crime pattern analysis and are an important indicator of police workload. However, there are also categories of crime (such as drug possession offences) whose numbers are heavily influenced by the extent to which police proactively investigate.


Police recorded crime figures should be seen as a product of an administrative system where rules can be subject to different interpretation and, for some categories of crime, can


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