19 Dec 2013

Police chief’s ‘concern’ over crime stats manipulation claim

There is a “cause for concern” over allegations that officers manipulate crime statistics, the head of the UK’s largest police force admits.

The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said he has set up an internal investigation into claims his officers are making crime figures look better and has asked Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) to check his force’s statistics.

His comments on Thursday come after the HMIC chief Tom Winsor told a Parliamentary committee that it was almost certain manipulation of figures was going on.

And they come a month after a police whistleblower told another Parliamentary committee that – among officers’ methods of fiddling the statistics – was convincing rape victims not to pursue their allegations.

“There are some causes for concern”, Hogan-Howe told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme. He added that the HMIC’s 2011 finding that more than 10 per cent of cases reported to his force were wrongly closed without a crime being raised was “certainly an important figure” that he wanted to look into.

‘Serious allegations’

But he insisted that the same report also praised the police approach in part and, adding, as a member of HMIC at that time, he co-authored it. And there were “some far worse figures” than the Met’s, he claimed.

“What I’m not going to say is that I’m not at all disagreeing that we need to have crime stats that are accurate,” he said.

The Commissioner added: “Generally, I am confident. I am not going to sit here and say they are 100 per cent perfect. No statistics are 100 per cent perfect. I would be casual and negligent if I didn’t [conduct an investigation]… So, I think it is very important that we get to the bottom of these allegations.”

He spoke after Mr Winsor’s evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee yesterday, in which the chief inspector said he had written to Hogan-Howe to contest his earlier evidence that HMIC had found the Met’s recording of crime statistics “competent and reliable”.

What his organisation had in fact said, he told MPs, was that there was a cause for concern. “So there is a big difference between ‘some cause of concern’ and ‘competent and reliable’. I have not yet received Sir Bernard’s response,” Mr Winsor added.

Asked whether he had replied to Sir Tom, Hogan-Howe said on Thursday morning: “We are in the process of doing that. I think we had only had the letter for 24 hours, so we were working through that, but he will get it.”

Addressing evidence given to the Public Administration Select Committee in November by one serving and two former police officers, he said: “First of all, these are serious allegations and we are investigating it.

“Not only are we investigating it, I’ve asked the HMI to come in and look at the stats now, not back in 2011, but here in 2013… Also the Deputy Mayor [of London] has asked our auditors to come and have a look too. So, we’re all trying to get to the bottom of these allegations.

He said: “Where I entirely agree with [Mr Winsor]… is that crime stats have to be accurate. They have got to be accurate because the public have got to rely on them: is crime going up or down? The victim needs to know that the crime is being recorded and investigated properly.

“And I, and the police, want to know: ‘Where is crime?’ I want to know where to send officers and make sure that we investigate and stop crime, or alternatively investigate it. So, there’s no doubt I want accurate crime stats.”