Caught red-handed: Why we can't count on Police Recorded Crime statistics - Public Administration Committee Contents

1  Introduction

1. Crime statistics published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) are central to our understanding of the nature and prevalence of crime in England and Wales. The statistics are based on two main sources:(i) the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW, formerly the British Crime Survey) and (ii) Police Recorded Crime (PRC). The CSEW provides strong evidence that the overall volume of crime has been falling for up to two decades. PRC since the current series began in 2002/03 also shows that crime overall has been falling.There is no evidence to contradict thistrend, though some types of crime have fallen much faster than others. However, there is an accumulation of substantial and credible evidence indicating that crime as recorded by the PRC data doesnot representa full and accurate account of crime in England and Wales. There is strong evidence that PRC is under-recording, and therefore exaggeratingthe rate of decrease in crime, primarily due to lax police compliance with the agreed national standard of victim-focussed crime recording. As a result of this inquiry and the evidence we have exposed, the UK Statistics Authority(UKSA) decided in January 2014 to strip PRC data of its designation as National Statistics.

2. The Chair of PASC was contacted by a serving police officer, PC James Patrick, acting as a whistleblower, who had serious concerns about the validity of crime statistics. We are indebted to PC Patrick for his courage in speaking out, in fulfilment of his duty to the highest standards of public service, despite intense pressures to the contrary. The purpose of our inquiry was to examine whether crimes were being recorded by the police appropriately, to look at the factors which can influence policemisrecording of crime, and to assess whether enough has been done to ensure the integrity of crime data. Ultimately, we wanted to know whether policy makers and the public can have confidence in the statistics which result from the recording of crime by police forces. We called for written evidence, and held four oral evidence sessions, hearing from current and former police officers, academics, senior police officers, Police and Crime Commissioners, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, UKSA, the ONS and the Home Office minister, Norman Baker MP.Prompted by PASC's inquiry, the Home Affairs Committee also took evidence on this issue, during their current inquiry into Police and Crime Commissioners.[1]

3. This study on crime statistics is part of a wider programme of work we are carrying out on statistics and their use in Government. A full description of the studies is set out on our website at We are grateful to our Specialist Adviser on statistics, Simon Briscoe, for his help with this inquiry.

1   Home Affairs Select Committee, inquiry into Police and Crime Commissioners. Back

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Prepared 9 April 2014