More on murder
Some common themes emerged and we can take a lot from what was said. There were pleas for more context in our reporting. We do it, but we will try to do more. The most common criticisms were that we do too many stories purely for their shock value, and that we are guilty of creating panic and an unnecessary fear of crime.
Are we guilty? On Radio Four I am confident we are not. In fact, our instincts can tend to be too conservative. We are comfortable doing stories when there is an issue attached but when it is just a powerful human story we sometimes shy away.
There was a heated debate in the PM office as the Soham story unfolded. Some felt we should not cover it because when it first broke there were no apparent issues involved. It was just an awful compelling story. However, we were right to tell it in the constrained and sober way we did. We were right to report the Tom Ap Rhys Price murder for the same reasons. To ignore a story when it has become such a major part of the national conversation risks us appearing out of touch and irrelevant.
One of the other consequences of your comments was that I was invited to an internal BBC editors' forum on crime. Our home editor Mark Easton had some interesting thoughts on crime statistics that are food for thought for those wanting us to use them to give more context to reporting. He says:
- "We must be very wary of crime statistics. The numbers do not tell us whether crime is going up or down. In fact, they massively underestimate the level of criminal behaviour in this country.
- "Most crime, much of it very serious, never gets reported to the police. It never gets identified by adult victims responding to the British Crime Survey. In the year 2000, police in England and Wales recorded approximately five million suspected crimes. Analysis by the Home Office suggested there were actually 60 million crimes committed that year. A report by Lord Birt for Downing Street looking at the same year concluded the figure was closer to 130 million crimes.
- "Recorded crime figures reflect the crimes the criminal justice system has the capacity to process and chooses to focus upon."