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The war of numbers

Mark Easton | 15:14 UK time, Tuesday, 30 March 2010

It's election time. Two unsolicited matey e-mails have dropped into my inbox from opposing political advisers, both wanting to draw my attention to Home Office statistics.

A Labour insider helpfully sends this graph showing how crime is down and fear of crime is rising.

Labour crime graph

Nothing new in the data with which I am familiar. But the sub-text seems clear enough. "Don't believe all that Tory nonsense about crime going up. They are playing on people's fears".

Meanwhile a Conservative advisor points me in the direction of an official document "found" on the internet which suggests Home Office press releases are full of "statistical omissions".

The sub-text here is that "the Labour government has been playing fast and loose with crime figures and cannot be trusted".

Screenshot of Home Office report

I sense that we are all being "softened up" for the battles to come on crime during the campaign. But it is also a clue as to how important numbers are going to be in the election arguments about criminal justice.

The criticism by the UK Statistics Authority of officials in No 10 over knife crime figures and, more recently, shadow home secretary Chris Grayling on violent crime stats (both following revelations on this blog) has focused election strategists' minds on the power of data.

The Labour prompting around crime and the fear of crime is designed to imply that the government can claim credit for falling levels of victimhood (a controversial assertion) and that high and arguably irrational levels of fear is nothing to do with politicians (equally controversial).

That experience of crime has fallen significantly since 1995 is difficult to contest, but the cause may have little or nothing to do with a thousand government policy initiatives.

Technological and economic factors such as security systems and the fall in the price of consumer durables like DVDs may have had a far greater important impact on volume crimes than the dozens of criminal justice laws introduced.

Equally, it could be argued that much government activity around crime has had the unintended consequence of making people feel more anxious.

The Conservative nudging towards the work of the Home Office's Surveys, Design and Statistics Subcommittee inspired the Daily Mail to assert that "nearly two-thirds of Government press releases contain misleading or unsubstantiated claims".

However, the document actually says that its findings do "not necessarily mean that the statistics were misleading or inaccurate". According to one of the statisticians who produced the "damning report", it is not damning in the least.

Professor Sheila Bird, who will be presenting the results at the Royal Statistical Society tomorrow, tells me that the findings are "not shocking at all but a statistical standard to aim for".

I sometimes feel that elections are the opposite of what they claim to be: far from offering an opportunity for Britain to make a reasoned judgement about the policies to guide our country over the next five years, we witness a crazy scramble for power where truth and perspective, as in a real war, are early victims.

In that context, perhaps, a debate about numbers is a step in the right direction.

Comments

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  • 1. At 3:42pm on 30 Mar 2010, citizenloz wrote:

    Government statistics are about as believable as anything that comes out of a politicians mouth...

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  • 2. At 3:43pm on 30 Mar 2010, jobsagoodin wrote:

    Mark, I'd be interested in your analysis of whether the HoC Library research referred to in an earlier blog of yours (see below) does indeed demonstrate that violent crime is up 44% contrary to government claims. I don't think you have answered this yet.

    'PS: It's been revealed this morning that the Conservatives believe the House of Commons Library research demonstrates that violent crime has risen 44% under Labour, but the government continues to dispute the accuracy of the claim.'

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  • 3. At 3:47pm on 30 Mar 2010, Ramilas1 wrote:

    "In that context, perhaps, a debate about numbers is a step in the right direction."

    All very well, Mark, and I would agree, but for ONE proviso...
    ... whose numbers can we believe without waiting FOTY EIGHT hours for them to be completely discredited?

    So, the ONE big numbers battle will probably be fought out on the last day of campaigning when it's too late for you, and others, to question and expose the incorrectness and irrelevance !

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  • 4. At 3:56pm on 30 Mar 2010, Roger wrote:

    How about this for an obscure example?

    On the The Archer on BBC Radio 4, there were 2 boys vandalising various buildings with graffiti. On the 'Discuss The Archers' discussion group there was an item about a parent not worrying about this behaviour. On person wrote in:

    "But boys who can roam round, undiscovered for weeks, alone or in pairs, graffiti-ing, can be the victims of rapists, too, surely?"

    Is our attitude to the threat of crime a result of our risk-averse/zero risk taking society? In the past, accidents (and deliberate malice) occured. People saw that as part of life. Now SOMEONE is to blame and SOMEONE must be made to suffer for it.

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  • 5. At 3:58pm on 30 Mar 2010, redtimbo wrote:

    I wonder if you watched 'The Great Offices of State' on the BBC? They had a programme on the Home Office and every home secretary (from both parties) from the last 30 years or so said that as soon as they took the job, Civil Servants sat them down, showed them some stats/graphs and told them that crime has always risen and will continue to do so - and there's nothing you can do about it. They (from the 1980s until David Blunkett/Charles Clarke/Alan Johnson) all said how deflated they were at the defeatist attitude but that they had to accept it.

    How come then statistics are showing crime is falling? Can you explain that Mark? (If you haven't seen the programme then watch it.)

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  • 6. At 4:00pm on 30 Mar 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    The common thief is still in shock over how the bankers were able to pull off the greatest theft in history without any of them being held accountable. They will need awhile after being so humbled to get back to their old habits. The unemployed are home more therefore opportunities to steal are down. The bankers will probably want to take credit for this reduction in crime. The financial crisis has dropped the value of stolen goods as well. It is all about the economy and the class of the thief.. On election day remember that all the members made this possible by abidcating their responsbilities to the citizens while looking out for the interest of bankers. Bankers Help Fight Crime, might be a suggested title from an elected point of view....I can see another bonus coming...

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  • 7. At 4:00pm on 30 Mar 2010, ch21ss wrote:

    "Technological and economic factors such as security systems and the fall in the price of consumer durables like DVDs may have had a far greater important impact on volume crimes than the dozens of criminal justice laws introduced."

    This seems a very weak reason - you could just as easily argue that the drop in price of consumer durables should be expected to lead to more burglaries, as to make the same living he used to a burglar has to steal a lot more stuff.

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  • 8. At 4:16pm on 30 Mar 2010, dasilva wrote:

    "Statistics prove that statistics prove nothing at all"

    That was paraphrasing a quote from Neighbours, many years ago (you guessed, Harold Bishop) - perhaps not exactly true but unless you know the exact question asked, the data gathered, the analysis done on that data and how the conclusions relate to that analysis you can take any quote that starts "Statistics show that..." with a European Salt Mountain.

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  • 9. At 4:18pm on 30 Mar 2010, James Rigby wrote:

    Statistics are only as good as the raw data on which they depend. There is a wealth of anecdotal evidence from serving police officers that they are encouraged to record reported crimes in ways which help their forces achieve their targets for reducing violent crime.

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  • 10. At 4:24pm on 30 Mar 2010, Lazarus wrote:

    If we abolish crime statistics altogether then officially there will be no crime, Mark.

    However, this wouldn't mean that there wasn't actually any crime being committed.

    Crime statistics are utterly meaningless, and serve only to occupy civil servants, senior police management, and the politicians they report to.

    Forget crime stats, just let the police get on with doing their jobs. Remember the Peelian principle - "The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it."

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  • 11. At 4:25pm on 30 Mar 2010, Alan wrote:

    If crimes are down and there are less people being sent to prison, then how come said prisons are full to bursting and at their highest levels per capita?(Home office statistics, not mine)

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  • 12. At 4:28pm on 30 Mar 2010, jobsagoodin wrote:

    redtimbo 5

    'How come then statistics are showing crime is falling? Can you explain that Mark? (If you haven't seen the programme then watch it.)'

    I think it's mainly due to the tougher prison sentences introduced under Michael Howard in 1993. The factors Mark mentions have also played a part. Not sure about this but I believe Labour have been cutting sentences in recent years and are certainly softer on crime than the Tories (although nowhere near as soft as the Lib Dems)

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  • 13. At 4:36pm on 30 Mar 2010, awkward moment wrote:

    what i'd like to see is really quite simple stuff. any graph showing any statistic must show the whole x and y axis. no false ceilings, no segments out. start from zero, every time. then we can make an informed decision as to whether the trend of the data is significant in real terms. trying to make a sensationalist "the end of the world is nigh and we are all doomed" headline out of a 1% blip would be made to look as stupid as it is. if you put the slashed section back into the top graph suddenly all the hysteria vanishes. unless a trend starts resembling something you wouldn't want to ski down, it's probably not worth taking to the bunkers.

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  • 14. At 4:41pm on 30 Mar 2010, Megan wrote:

    Politicians use statistics as a drunk uses a lamp post - more for support than illumination.

    Set your colleague Blastland on the crime figures - he's really good at spotting what a dataset REALLY means and explaining it.

    Part of the perception of crime is that, while efforts are made over the headline ones - murders and rapes - and over hounding motorists for the least violation (cos there's money in it) little is perceived to be done over other criminal behaviour.

    Burglary is a case in point. The letter saying there would be no further investigation arrived so sharply that it had probably been posted before the attending police officer had actually left my house. 6 years later nothing has been recovered.

    Likewise the streets of Crewe are thick with unlit bicycles - but the police would rather prosecute a motorist into which one of them rides than send someone out to shout at the fellows who cannot be bothered to light up.

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  • 15. At 4:42pm on 30 Mar 2010, kaybraes wrote:

    You have to assume that any statement or statistic issued by this dreadful apology for a government is at best sparing with the truth and possibly deliberately inaccurate.

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  • 16. At 4:47pm on 30 Mar 2010, presterjohn wrote:

    And I reckon they've being 'playing fast and loose' with the immigration figures as well - it's gotta be way past the figures claimed...

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  • 17. At 4:48pm on 30 Mar 2010, General_Jack_Ripper wrote:

    jobsagoodin wrote:
    Not sure about this but I believe Labour have been cutting sentences in recent years and are certainly softer on crime than the Tories

    Oh please !


    Blair's 'frenzied law making' : a new offence for every day spent in office

    Tony Blair's government has created more than 3,000 new criminal offences during its nine-year tenure, one for almost every day it has been in power.


    Source: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/blairs-frenzied-law-making--a-new-offence-for-every-day-spent-in-office-412072.html


    Then there's also this:

    Nowhere in Western Europe jails more of its population than England and Wales, where about 147 people per 100,000 are in prison.

    Since the start of 1993, the number of prisoners has risen from 41,600 to more than 80,000.


    Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/pop_ups/06/uk_prisons_in_the_uk/html/1.stm


    So, since 1997 the UK prison population has doubled and over 3,000 new laws have been created specifically to criminalise people. Let us not forget that in 1997 one of New Labour's main election points was that they'd create a new way of dealing with anti-social behaviour because the Tories had allowed it to get totally out of control and this is why we ended up with these ridiculous ASBO's.

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  • 18. At 4:48pm on 30 Mar 2010, CComment wrote:

    Does anyone actually trust or believe ANY set of statistics from ANY politician ? Caledonian Comment

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  • 19. At 4:54pm on 30 Mar 2010, doilookthatsilly wrote:

    Does anyone actually believe any of these statistics? -- it is surely a well known saying that " you can prove anything with statistics " --just depends which figures you choose to use/ignore/slant - the important issue surely is how many voters do actually believe that crime is increasing/decreasing - IN THEIR OWN EXPERIENCE - and how efficiently or otherwise their problems are actually resolved - ststistics don't mend broken windows !
    Statistics from politicians are,by definition, not worth the paper they are written on.

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  • 20. At 4:58pm on 30 Mar 2010, arny wrote:

    If kids on impoverished housing estates can't steal cars and go joyriding because of modern engine immobilisers, and stealing isn't as attractive because of CCTV and the lower value of consumer goods, and any graffiti is cleaned off by the council within a couple of days of it being reported, then I suspect the behavior is going to be displaced into something else such as antisocial behavior, petty vandalism and harassment. They're not just going to suddenly become well behaved citizens, content with a lifetime working in some dead end job. I think the nature of the problem has changed - in an 'aspirational' society the struggle for status has become more important and crime is no longer about stealing VCRs and car radios, it's become harder to define and to measure. We need to use new measures as well as the older obsolete ones.

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  • 21. At 5:05pm on 30 Mar 2010, MichaelG wrote:

    Speaking personally, because of the area I live in, I've been a victim of crime many times including being mugged and stabbed six times, yet, for the last few years, I no longer bother reporting 'less serious' crimes because all that happens is the police come, take a statement and then leave again and you never hear anything further, or else they just say they will look into it with the same result. Consequently, I feel it is wasting both my time and theirs. Most people round here feel the same. Perhaps this has a bearing on these unrealistic statistics? Both in the sense of crime going unreported (there is so much of it you would be on the phone every few days) or else police just saying they will look into it so not logging it as a reported crime which makes it onto statistics.

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  • 22. At 5:06pm on 30 Mar 2010, Disgusted with each government wrote:

    Government view: "Crime is going down".
    Public translation: "*REPORTED* crime is going down. Actual crime is going up."

    Example:
    Last week I'm driving along and the car in front of me opens it's window and throws all of a mcdonalds meal, wrapping, box, and a full coke out of it's window, bouncing all over the road and pavement. I take down their driving plate and drive to my police station. At the entrance is a sign, "This station is closed on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday pm, Thursday, Friday pm, Saturday, Sunday". The day was Monday. I am told I can go to another station or report any crime via a phone number. On that occasion, weighing up the fact I've already spent 15 minutes going out of my way to get to the police station and that I would have reported it if the station hadn't been closed due to cuts, I choose to go home annoyed at the fact my council tax allocation to the police increased by 5% this year (2/3 of which is going on pay increases and pension).

    Reported crime: No increase.
    Actual crime: +1.

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  • 23. At 5:08pm on 30 Mar 2010, Mike Thacker wrote:

    I'm disappointed that journalists aren't picking up on the significance of the "Making Public Data Public" initiative involving Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

    The publication of public data in the "Linked Data" way promoted by Sir Tim Berners-Lee allows questions asked by Mark Easton like "Does victimhood correlate with the price of electronic goods or the installation of security systems?" to be tested.

    The way to get better government is to subject policy to the kind of statistical rigour that is expected in the more exact sciences.

    The "Public Data Public" approach (which might frankly be being introduced without most politicians understanding the far reaching implications) subjects government work to better scrutiny and lets us test hypothesises that the politicians might not like or have considered.

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  • 24. At 5:18pm on 30 Mar 2010, jobsagoodin wrote:

    GJR 17

    Yes, but nothing you've said proves that (most) sentences haven't been getting shorter. The fact Blair may have introduced a whole load of silly laws doesn't say anything about sentences for burglary, mugging, GBH, murder etc. all of which I believe are shorter now than 1997 (I'm willing to stand corrected if someone can give me actual evidence to the contrary).

    If you take ASBOs which you mention, these are only ridiculous to the extent that the Government allows them to be breached because it doesn't really take the problem seriously.

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  • 25. At 5:32pm on 30 Mar 2010, Forlornehope wrote:

    An interesting parallel is in the customer surveys produced by the European Auto industry during the 1990's. At the time the number of faults that customers were experiencing on their new cars was falling rapidly, as the manufacturers responded to Japanese competition. Despite this, when asked to rate their cars against the criterion "freedom from faults" the subjective customer ratings were getting worse. What was happening was that customer expectation was rising faster than the industry could improve to meet it. A similar effect may be present with the comparison between experience of crime and fear of it.

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  • 26. At 5:38pm on 30 Mar 2010, Disgusted with each government wrote:

    I've just remembered something humerous - some kid walked down our street last year, kicking all of the wing mirrors off 'all' of the cars, both sides (not the first time). I rang the police and two PCSO's turned up and said they'd make enquiries but there wasn't a lot they could do. If I logged it with them though, I could get a crime reference number to give to my insurer. First of all, I'd have to pay my insurer £300 excess to get the work done, so I was already not interested, but the best bit was that by getting the crime reference the insurer would see the reported crime associated with my postal code - so my premium would increase due to increased crime!!!! Riiiiiggggghhhhhtttt.... would I like to report a crime? No thank you officer.

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  • 27. At 6:00pm on 30 Mar 2010, novalidopinion wrote:

    The famous remark attributed to Disraeli comes to mind.
    His incisive witicism was made to highlight the persuasive power of numbers,particularly the use of statistics to bolster weak arguments and the tendency of people to disparage statistics that do not support their positions.
    It is now commonly used to dismiss the value of statistics entirely.
    It will be difficult for journalists to report figures objectively, in hope of presenting a balanced view of those numbers which are undoubtedly being manipulated to support party political interests,because the electorate has become cynical about statistics per-se.
    In terms of crime figures, I doubt that your honourable endeavors are likely to penetrate the prejudices of the public,
    whom have already made up their minds that they want a more punitive society, no matter what the facts are.
    I look forward to seeing how you will develop your commendable ideal of getting at the truth of figures and presenting the facts objectively to your viewers.
    I hope also, that you will be customarily astute in your analysis and interpolation then able to communicate the implications of the statistics you are lead to confront by the forthcoming campaigns.
    Beyond that I can only pray that minds will be open to such revelations but I suspect that largely, most will ignore what the numbers say and rest upon their preconceptions.
    This will be especially true when such things as the economy, drug classification, immigration and asylum are examined.
    Still, it's worth a try!

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  • 28. At 8:32pm on 30 Mar 2010, jon112dk wrote:

    BCS is state funded and state controlled. What the BCS does and does not ask about is quite interesting.

    However, if the government lock up EIGHTY THOUSAND criminals in prisons now crammed to bursting point, then surely it is predictable that some types of crime will go down? For example it will be quite tricky for burglar bill to break into my house whilst he is behind his door in the local prison. If he needs to do 1-2 burglaries a day to feed his heroin habit, that can be a lot of burglaries prevented in the course of a year.

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  • 29. At 00:20am on 31 Mar 2010, AqualungCumbria wrote:

    It would be helpful on the graph to note when changes to the way crimes were reported were added.

    I dont trust government/opposition figures, it needs a totally independant review of the whole system and a way of reporting the figures that doesnt change on each new initiative and is clear and easy to understand for the public and should go on infintum.

    The whole point of government has been during the past few years if we change the system then people cannot compare like with like.Education is a case in example......





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  • 30. At 01:35am on 31 Mar 2010, LesAbbey wrote:

    Interesting that there are no bankers or politicians increasing our prison population.

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  • 31. At 08:01am on 31 Mar 2010, Daisy Chained wrote:

    There is an irony in calling statistical arguments a "war of numbers" during the general election run up. But aren't statistics just a convenient padding for failed or failing arguments on any side of the political map?

    After all the election is not about to be fought generally or nationally is it? It is going to concentrate its effort on the marginals. That means that for the first time in five years the "big" parties are actually interested in the electorate in some godforsaken place somewhere!

    Now, as I see the issues, the locals in this godforsaken place have noticed a fair few strange and unfamiliar faces, a sharp increase in crime, and a notable increase in unemployment. The local bus service is also getting a lot more packed and uncomfortable too. The local bobby has been saying they cannot cope with all the extra paperwork, and yet s/he never used to complain about that. S/he looks so very tense - everyday.

    Now, in the absence of anyone else being in the least bit interested in their plight, the locals have chatted amongst themselves and they are concerned, very concerned. A local political agent has recovered some statistics that show their fears are unfounded, but it doesn't cut any ice with them and why should it?

    So the election IS about a "war of numbers" after all, except the numbers are the crosses that will or will not land in the "right" boxes according to the wishes of a few politicians in that godforsaken place somewhere.

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  • 32. At 08:33am on 31 Mar 2010, Daisy Chained wrote:

    #30 LesAbbey

    I thought it was very diplomatic of you not to include journalists and media people in your comment.

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  • 33. At 09:34am on 31 Mar 2010, Colonel_Bloodnok wrote:

    Hmmm... crime rate falling eh? That explains why my daughter's partner, a Detective Constable, has only just finished a 44 hour 'shift'.

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  • 34. At 10:55am on 31 Mar 2010, LippyLippo wrote:

    We tend to get our information about crime from two main sources: Personal experience and the media. Personal experience is a very biased view because it takes account of a miniscule sample set. If you have been the victim of a crime, it looms large in your world and blocks out a more generalised, macroscopic view. You will have a much more acute sense of it than somebody who is not a victim.

    The media is biased in a different way. Even if you ignore the fact that most of the newspapers are anti-Government, you cannot ignore the simple fact that a newspaper needs to grab your attention in an increasingly competitive world. 'Bad news sells' as Max Carver said. It is much easier to criticise than to praise, much easier to destroy than to create. (If this weren't the case, Simon Cowell wouldn't have a job!). And the papers, in particular, are so protective of their readership that they simply wouldn't dare write something that they thought their chosen demographic group might disagree with, or fail to identify with. It's almost sycophantic sometimes. They cosset their readers by telling them exactly what they think they want to hear. So the readers become used to hearing views, reading articles, seeing Comments etc. that are perfectly attuned to their own views.

    So we get our information on crime mainly from biased sources. And we believe it so much that we find it almost impossible to trust genuine statistics from qualified, eminent people who spend their professional lives in statistical research, especially if those figures contradict our own viewpoints. Are we to beieve that these organisations - the police, the BSS, (and the BBC!!) and other organisations - are secretly colluding to conceal information from us and prop up the Labour government? That they are lying? That every police force and statistical agency is deliberately under-reporting crime? It isn't likely, is it?

    Maybe it's just possible that crime is in fact going down, and our elected ruling party - those ZaNu Liebour clowns headed by the utterly incompetent Broon - has got something right? Surely not! Our country isn't run by professional, hard-working, qualified people who deserve just a little respect sometimes - is it? No, it's easier to believe that every single politician is a useless, self-serving, greedy liar who couldn't find his own backside with both hands.

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  • 35. At 11:24am on 31 Mar 2010, General_Jack_Ripper wrote:

    jobsagoodin
    Yes, but nothing you've said proves that (most) sentences haven't been getting shorter.


    Fair enough, how about this:

    Life sentences double in 10 years as judges hand down longer terms

    The number of people being given life sentences has more than doubled in the past 10 years while judges have been imposing longer prison terms each year.

    The Sentencing Guidelines Council counters the Prime Minister's claim that Britain's courts are not being tough enough on convicted criminals.

    Its research, published yesterday, shows that judges are imposing harsher prison sentences than ever before. At the same time overall crime levels are falling.

    In 1993 the Crown Courts imposed 382 life sentences compared with 581 in 2004. The average prison sentence in the Crown Court increased by seven months in the same period. But Tony Blair insisted yesterday that more laws were needed to "rebalance" the criminal justice system. This week the Prime Minister also blamed the courts for the public's lack of confidence in sentencing.

    The SGC, an independent body which gives guidance on sentencing, also found that the biggest increase was for burglary. The average sentence for stealing from a home has risen from 15.3 months to 24.9 months in the past 10 years.


    Source: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/life-sentences-double-in-10-years-as-judges-hand-down-longer-terms-405276.html?cmp=ilc-n

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  • 36. At 12:06pm on 31 Mar 2010, Sprogglechops wrote:

    I strongly recommend everybody to read Darrell Huff's superlative book "How to lie with statistics". Now, although many of his examples are dated ("which doctors smoke which brand of cigarette") the points he makes are still as valid today as they were in 1954 when he wrote the book. He covers such issues as the "gee-whiz" graph (where - like the one above - the axes are truncated in order to produce an exaggerated effect), the fact that correlation does NOT equal causation, how to spot a phoney poll (the fact that a proper opinion poll is very difficult to do) and myriads of other examples. Huff covers trends such as the above with "The trend-to-now may be a fact, but the future trend represents no more than an educated guess. Implicit in it is 'everything else being equal' and 'present trends continuing'. And somehow everything else refuses to remain equal, else life would be dull indeed."

    This book - which is incredibly easy to read - should be on every journalist's desk!!

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  • 37. At 1:13pm on 31 Mar 2010, Steve - Iver wrote:

    Crime is going down but the perception of crime is going up. How can that be? It might have something to do with the fact that we have a law for everything these days.

    From parking offences to noise abatement, we are all guilty of law-breaking in one way or another at some time. It's a catch-all system.

    What might show a more positive light on the statistics, would be if Capital Crime was shown distinct from lesser activity.

    Traditionally, there are 3 root causes of crime: Boredom, Financial and Opportunity - categories that include such crime as Theft, Murder, Assault and Criminal Damage.

    We have a culture that analyses everything to find the person to blame, and that is generally a good thing, if it works. What is does, however, is condition the population as a whole, and the law-makers in the process, to have a catch-all system so that every action and therefore every reaction is covered by a law.

    I believe, that because of this, we have a culture in this country that needs to blame someone for everything and a law to cover that blame, so while official figures might be on the decline overall, the perception is that everyone is a criminal.

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  • 38. At 2:45pm on 31 Mar 2010, Pottermagic wrote:

    So why doesn't the supposedly impartial British Broadcasting Company use the Great British Public's generous contributions (in the form of License Fees) to publish some real facts on a regular basis about the important information all Voters need. What's to stop the BBC having brief interludes on the Radio and TV, presenting some trustworthy facts and perhaps also taking the time to encourage Voters to vote in the first place.
    It would be interesting to see how Voters reacted if they actually saw/heard repeatedly just how many (few) people bothered to vote at the more recent Elections and perhaps giving Voters some impartial advice on how to identify local Candidates.

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  • 39. At 3:41pm on 31 Mar 2010, CarolineOfBrunswick wrote:

    Mark,
    Any idea how the Home Office's mean 1.6 statistical "lacunae" in the 203 press releases they studied compares to anyone elses?
    Is there any pressure from the recipients of press releases to increase their statistical quality?

    Main lacunae were merged into
    Inadequate reporting of counts, percentages, % change, or means
    Claimed success or trend without quantification or other evidence
    Missing methodology or definitions
    Selective citation: centres, time-periods, outcomes, subgroups

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  • 40. At 4:23pm on 31 Mar 2010, SSnotbanned wrote:

    Statistics: Reminds me of the days when you would be say,painting and decorating or cleaning the car, and someone passing by would say ''you've missed a bit''.

    Perhaps This Year's Favourite Politician's Rebuttal (RE:Code 123):

    ''If only it was true...''

    Funny how the two graphs began to diverge in 1998. What happened then...???

    The other thing is, the number of years(x axis) do not seem to correspond to the plotted number of points. Where (some of )the early years two-year data averages ??


    [whistle.wink.]

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  • 41. At 5:36pm on 31 Mar 2010, Peter Galbavy wrote:

    I have to agree with many others. From personal experience of my environment the number of *REPORTED* crimes is falling. The number of crimes are increasing. The tangled path through the "justice" system acts as a serious barrier to the only amateur in the game - the typical victim. Everyone else is making a living; the criminal, the police, the legals teams and the courts. Oh, and the politicians.

    Note the the person who mentioned taking registration numbers down to report to the police or the CPS: Don't bother, they do not care. It's not one of their targets and they do not accept "evidence" from the public. That's impacting their control of the system and that's not allowed.

    Perhaps some rebalancing of priorities is in order ?

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  • 42. At 7:45pm on 31 Mar 2010, cping500 wrote:

    Of course people are thinking that "crime is rising as across the country as a whole." Along the bottom of my screen is running the BBC News Ticker Every story from England and Manchester sites is a crime story. I happens all the time. Of course I could assume that this was Tory bias. I complained to the very highly paid Head of News. It was modified for a while but its back to normal. Where do these stories come from? The Police long since refused to reply to callas from 'Lunchtime O'Booze except where they wanted witnesses. But none of these BBC News Site stories ask for witnesses. they are actually about part of the process arrest , release charge, finally court, this one rarely reported by the BBC because court reporting cost real money. So every incident get four or more mentions.

    Maybe we could have some stats on this aspect of the subject.

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  • 43. At 10:07am on 01 Apr 2010, General_Jack_Ripper wrote:

    @ jobsagoodin

    The imprisonment rate for England and Wales is significantly higher than it was five years ago when it stood at 125 per 100,000. This is due to an increased severity in sentencing. The courts are sending more people to prison and for longer.

    * A first time domestic burglar is nearly twice as likely to go to prison today as eight years ago. The average sentence length for all burglars has increased from 16 to 25 months.

    * First time offenders are more likely to be sent to prison than previously. Of the increase in the total number of people sent to prison in the last eight years more than half of them have no previous convictions.

    * Sentence severity has increased significantly for women. Women convicted of theft or handling at the Crown Court are now twice as likely to go to prison as in 1991. At the magistrates' courts the chances of a woman receiving a custodial sentence has risen seven-fold.



    Source: http://www.prisonreformtrust.org.uk/subsection.asp?id=345

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