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Just for the record

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Mark Easton | 12:53 UK time, Wednesday, 25 March 2009

I have just been sent a new e-mail and official guidance which were sent to the Home Office ahead of their decision to publish inaccurate knife crime statistics last December. The documents reveal that officials were told that publication would "undermine the integrity of official statistics".

The e-mail is dated 26 November, 2008 - a fortnight before the so-called "fact sheet" was released. It clearly warns that the data "is still provisional".

From: Statistical Analyst IC

Sent: 26 November 2008 18:59

To: Home Office Official(x2)

Cc: Department of Health Official

Subject: Month 6 (April to September) Data

Hi

Ahead of schedule, here is the Month 6 (April to September) Data. As before, I have included September data but be aware that as the most recent month, this may not be 100% complete.

As always, please take extra care with this data and who it is shared with as it is still provisional and has not yet been released/published.

Thanks

Statistical Analyst IC

The NHS Information Centre for health and social care
1 Trevelyan Square, Boar Lane, Leeds, LS1 6AE.

Just in case the alert was not clear enough, a footnote attached to the data (which you can read the full details of here) spelt it out.

Pre-release data (RESTRICTED STATISTICS) - 2007-08 PROVISIONAL DATA You are reminded that these are official statistics to which you have privileged access in advance of release. Such access is carefully controlled and is provided for management, quality assurance and briefing purposes only. Release into the public domain or any public comment on these statistics prior to official publication would undermine the integrity of official statistics. Please note these data will be published in their final form in December 2008. Any accidental or wrongful release should be reported immediately and may lead to an inquiry.

The statisticians make it crystal clear that "release into the public domain or any public comment on these statistics prior to official publication would undermine the integrity of official statistics".

Indeed, they go further. "Any accidental or wrongful release should be reported immediately and may lead to an inquiry."

And yet, as we now know, the Home Office and No 10 went ahead with publication on the justification that it showed "the progress that had been made with tackling knife crime".

When the verified figures were finally released it was revealed that the statistics showed no such thing.

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