Nick Smith MP Labour MP for Blaenau Gwent
The call for a crime figure review into Gwent Police is vital after its Chief Constable admitted pressure to hit targets could lead to errors, according to Nick Smith MP.
The Blaenau Gwent MP called for the review last week in Parliament after the validity of the crime figures were questioned by Police and Crime Commissioner Ian Johnston.
Since that call, both the Derbyshire Chief Constable and a former Detective Chief Superintendent for the Met have reported police efforts to limit crimes being recorded.
Now as Mr Smith challenged the Government for a debate on crime figures, Gwent’s Chief Constable Jeff Farrar has listed a variety of reasons why the public could doubt years of crime reporting.
In a statement as the spokesman on crime figures for the Association of Chief Police Officers, Mr Farrar said while “Nobody joins the police service with the intention of recording crime inaccurately”, “A variety of reasons including lack of awareness and knowledge, pressure of work, system errors, use of professional discretion in the public interest as well as the possible pressure to achieve local performance targets can all be reasons for this.”
Speaking after asking for the debate in the House of Commons, Mr Smith said: “With the comments that have emerged in the last few days, particularly from our own Chief Constable, it is more important than ever that these figures are externally measured once and for all.
“If the pressures to hit targets have caused changes to how the public’s problems are being dealt with, that is inexcusable. If those figures are then trumpeted as proof the police are doing a fantastic job,that is unacceptable.
“Gwent Police have assured us of an internal audit, but comments such as this are a convincing argument for the police to not mark their own homework.
“I have called for an external audit from HMIC, and written to the Minister responsible to drive this point home.
“We need confidence in data or it becomes useless. The public need confidence the police are serving them, not spreadsheets. This is why I will continue to campaign for a real look at how crimes are recorded.”
On November 21, Nick Smith asked Leader of the House, Andrew Lansley: “The local police and crime commissioner thinks that crime figures have been capped in Gwent, and the chief constable of Derbyshire said yesterday that he thought crime figures were being manipulated. May we have a debate in Government time on crime figures? Some police need to drive down crime, not numbers.”
In response, Andrew Lansley said: “If the hon. Gentleman is in his place on 2 December, he may wish to raise that matter with my colleagues at the Home Office. From everything I know, I think we are very clear that crime statistics must be accurate and properly reflect crime in an area. As in so many areas, if we are to have confidence in the accountability of organisations, the statistics on which they are held to account-the Home Secretary has been very clear that she is focused on reducing crime-must be accurate and truthful. Fortunately, we have the recorded crime statistics and the national crime survey, and they show in parallel that there has been a substantial reduction in crime under this Government.”