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3 Feb, 2022 20:47

Government described crime data ‘in misleading way’ – statistics watchdog

Boris Johnson and Priti Patel claimed to cut crime by 14%, but the statistics office says it actually rose
Government described crime data ‘in misleading way’ – statistics watchdog

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed in Parliament last week that his Conservative government has “been cutting crime by 14%,” while Home Secretary Priti Patel said that “crime continues to fall under this government.” However, the government has now been accused of presenting the crime data in a "misleading way" by the country's official statics body. 

Johnson’s declaration in the House of Commons was called out by Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael, who raised the issue with the UK Statistics Authority. In a letter responding to Carmichael on Thursday, authority boss Sir David Norgrove said that Johnson neglected to mention that the figures he quoted (which measured crime during the year ending September 2021 against the year ending September 2020) excluded fraud and computer crimes.

Taking these crimes into account, the overall crime rate in England and Wales actually rose by 14% during this period.

Several days earlier, a Home Office press release had said that “crime continues to fall under this Government,” quoting Patel as saying the Johnson administration’s approach “is working.” The press release described a fall in crime of 17% between the year ending June 2019 and the year ending September 2021. However, the Home Office’s crime reports always exclude fraud and computer crime, and this exclusion was noted at some points in the press release and omitted in others.

Rising levels of fraud and computer crime, which spiked during the Covid-19 pandemic, “more than offset the reductions seen for other types of crime,” Carmichael’s letter stated. 

“Office for National Statistics (ONS) measures for crime must be used accurately, and not misrepresented,” the letter read. “In this case, the Home Office news release presented the latest figures in a misleading way.”

Not all non-fraud crimes have fallen in the UK. While knife and firearms offenses are down by 10% and 9%, respectively, and thefts have plummeted by 18%, the year ending September 2021 saw the most rapes ever recorded in a single year. Sexual offenses were up 20%, although the ONS cautioned that this increase may have been driven by a number of high-profile cases encouraging “victims’ willingness to report incidents.”