UK Liberty

Statistics watchdog accuses Home Office

Posted in law and order by ukliberty on December 12, 2008

The Times:

The Home Office is at the centre of another row over crime figures after the head of the UK Statistics Authority accused it of issuing “selective” statistics on knife offending.

Sir Michael Scholar, head of the Authority, said the release of details on an initiative to tackle knife attacks by both the Home Office and 10 Downing Street had been “premature”.

The rebuke, which oversees the Office for National Statistics, is highly damaging, particularly as it follows disputes over the way the Home Office has dealt with release of crime and immigration and asylum figures.

Sir Michael said that the release of stabbing data was “premature, irregular and selective”.

The figures were handed to the BBC which used them in its lead story during early morning bulletins on Radio 4.

Sir Michael wrote to Jeremy Heywood, permanent secretary at 10 Downing Street, and said that figures on hospital admissions for stabbing injuries had not been properly checked and putting them out early was “corrosive of public trust”.

He said in his letter that he had been told that officials or advisors in Number 10 had “caused” the Home Office to issue the release.

The statisticians who produced the figures attempted to block their release on the grounds it was in breach of the National Statistics Code of Practice.

Sir Michael said: “These statistics were not due for publication for some time and had not therefore been through the regular process of checking and quality assurance.

“The statisticians who produced them, together with the National Statistician, tried unsuccessfully to prevent their premature, irregular and selective release.

“I hope you will agree that the publication of prematurely released and unchecked statistics is corrosive of public trust in official statistics and incompatible with the high standards which we are all seeking to establish.

“I would be grateful for your comments and for your assurance that there will be no repetition of this breach of the National Statistics Code of Practice.” …

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