Changes in the Publication of Crime Statistics in England and Wales
For researchers, students, and members of the public, it use to be the case that you rely on the British Crime Survey produced by the Home Office to find out current trends and issues relating to Crime in England and Wales. As of April 1st, 2012, this has changed and a separation between the Home Office and Criminal Statistics has been established; the collation and publication of crime statistics has moved to the Office for National Statistics.
In December 2010 the Home Secretary announced that the publication of Crime Statistics covering England and Wales would be moved out of the Home Office to promote greater public trust and demonstrate their independence. The Home secretary invited the National Statistician to conduct an independent Review of Crime Statistics for England and Wales to:
- Consider gaps, discrepancies and discontinuities within crime statistics;
- Recommend the best future location for the publication of crime statistics, and their associated data collection systems; and
- Produce an action plan for the implementations of recommendations from the UK Statistics Authority’s report Overcoming Barriers to Trust in Crime Statistics: England and Wales published in May 2010.
National Statistician, Jil Matheson, led the independent review of official crime statistics for England and Wales. The National Statistician – a statutory office holder – is also the Chief Executive of the UK Statistics Authority Board and the Board’s principal adviser. She is also the Head of the Government Statistical Services (GSS) which is a network of professional statisticians and their staff operating both within the Office for National Statistics and across more than 30 other government department and agencies.
As indicated in a News Release (June 2011) from the Government Statistical Service, key findings of Ms. Matheson’s review are that:
- The Office for National Statistics (ONS) should assume responsibility for the independent reporting and publication of crime statistics;
- The presentation of crime statistics needs further improvement to provide clarity about the coverage of the two sources of crime statistics – the British Crime Survey and police recorded crime – and to maximise the benefits of complementary sources to provide a fuller picture of crime; and
- There should be transparent decision-making on changes that affect the published crime statistics.
Ms. Matheson reported that the recommendations of the independent review are designed around improving the public’s understanding of crime statistics and their confidence in them.
(For detailed information regarding the recommendations set by the National Statistician see HERE )
The Crime Statistics Advisory Committee
This is a non-statutory body established by the National Statistician following a recommendation from the review. The committee functions as a strategic, high level advisory body offering independent advice to the Home Secretary, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) on matters related to the measurement of crime and the collection and presentation of crime data for England and Wales. It advises on how best to ensure that official statistics on crime are accurate, clearly presented, comprehensive, transparent and trustworthy taking account of the needs of users and providers. The current chair of the committee is Professor Stephen Shute – Head of the School of Law, Politics and Sociology and Professor of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice, University of Sussex.
What is ‘The Crime Survey for England and Wales’?
The British Crime Survey and police recorded crime measure different but overlapping issues of crime in England and Wales. They measure people’s experience of crime, and crimes report to, and recorded by the police. The new crime statistics report will now be called The Crime Survey for England and Wales (formerly British Crime Survey) asks people aged 16 and over living in households in England and Wales about their experiences of crime in the last 12 months. These experiences are used to estimate levels of crime in England and Wales. Until recently, the survey did not cover crimes against those aged under 16, but since January 2009 the interviews included children aged 10 to 15.
The Crime Survey also asks respondents about their attitudes to crime-related issues such as:
- The Police
- The Criminal Justice System
- Their perceptions of crime and anti-social behavior.
The Crime Survey for England and Wales provides a better reflection of the extent of household and personal crime than police recorded statistics because the survey includes crimes that are not reported to, or recorded by the police. The survey is also a better indicator of long-term trends because it is unaffected by changes in levels of reporting to the police or police recording practices.
It is important to remember that there are limitations within the Crime Survey and that it does not provide an absolute count of crime.
Information has been taken from the following government websites.