Monday, January 20, 2014
We can't trust British crime figures: After Plebgate, now watchdog says police statistics are unreliable
Police crime figures cannot be trusted, official watchdogs ruled last night. Amid widespread evidence of fiddling by police forces, the UK Statistics Authority withdrew its stamp of approval from the data.
It is a massive blow for ministers who have repeatedly trumpeted that crime has fallen by 10 per cent since the Coalition came to power. MPs said the decision could further harm trust in the police, which has already been hit by scandals such as Plebgate.
The statistics authority says the crime figures no longer comply with its code of practice – indicating the data cannot be trusted.
‘There is accumulating evidence that suggests the underlying data on crimes recorded by the police may not be reliable,’ said Sir Andrew Dilnot, the watchdog’s chairman.
He pointed to a warning from the Office for National Statistics that police records appear to ‘overstate the true rate at which crime has been falling’ by failing to take into account hundreds of thousands of offences.
Sir Andrew also highlighted evidence, submitted to Westminster’s public administration committee, that massaging figures to hit targets was ‘ingrained in policing culture’. Officers told MPs that high-profile and politically sensitive crimes are often reclassified.
An offence of robbery may be transformed into ‘other theft’ and a burglary may become criminal damage to downplay its significance.
Some offences are recorded as ‘no crime’ because there is no direct evidence. Where a mobile phone owner is unable to prove it was stolen it might be deemed lost.
In testimony to the public administration committee, Constable James Patrick, who analyses crime figures for the Met, said even rapes, child sex abuse, robberies and burglary were disappearing in a ‘puff of smoke’.
Forces were accused of downgrading crimes to less serious offences and even erasing them altogether by labelling them as accidents or errors.
MPs were told of a string of controversial techniques used by officers to cut recorded crime, including ‘cuffing, nodding, skewing and stitching’.
Last night Bernard Jenkin, who chairs the Westminster committee, said the inquiry had exposed complacency about crime data at all levels.
He said the downgrading of the crime figures, which are at record lows, should be a wake-up call to chief constables all around the country.
Jack Dromey, Labour’s spokesman on policing, said the damning verdict on the police figures was unprecedented.
‘It exposes [Home Secretary] Theresa May’s claim on crime reductions as baseless and out of touch,’ he added.
‘When challenged on hollowing out the police service, with 10,000 frontline police officers axed, Theresa May and ministers have repeatedly hidden behind the 10 per cent fall in police recorded crime.’
Keith Vaz, the Labour MP who chairs the Commons home affairs select committee, said: ‘This is an extraordinary step which fuels the concern around the reliability of crime statistics.
‘The recent allegations of manipulation of crime figures go right to the heart of the public trust in the police and how crime figures are compiled.’
Earlier this month, Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said there was truth to the allegation from Mr Patrick that statistics were being massaged.
Tom Winsor, Chief Inspector of Constabulary for England and Wales, who is leading an inquiry into crime statistics, has said he expects to find ‘some fiddling’.
Ex-Met commissioner Lord Stevens has said ‘fiddling of figures’ had been going on since he joined the police. He told the home affairs committee it was the ‘biggest scandal coming our way’.
Last night, Norman Baker, Liberal Democrat crime prevention minister, said: ‘It is vital that recorded crime statistics are as robust as they can possibly be – and this Government has a strong record on reinforcing their independence and accountability.
‘One of the first things we did when we came into office was to transfer responsibility for crime statistics to the independent Office for National Statistics.
‘Recorded crime has fallen by more than 10 per cent since June 2010 – and it is important to note that the separate and wholly independent crime survey for England and Wales has also fallen by more than 10 per cent over the same period.
‘It now stands at its lowest level since the survey began in 1981. So the evidence is clear: police reform is working and crime is falling.’
Responsibility for the production and publication of crime statistics for England and Wales was transferred from the Home Office to the ONS in April 2012.
But the Home Office remains operationally responsible for the collection and validation of crime figures from police forces in England and Wales, before they are passed on to the ONS for publication.
Police forces are responsible for generating recorded crime data, and each force has a crime registrar responsible for overseeing compliance with standards for recording crimes.
The next crime statistics are due to be published next week.
Glen Watson, who is the director general of the ONS, said: ‘We have already highlighted our concerns about the quality of crime recording by the police, and the variations in trends between recorded crime and our own crime survey for England and Wales.
‘I am pleased this has been recognised by the authority.’
The separate British Crime Survey – a survey of around 30,000 households – continues to have trusted status, officials said.
Mother stopped as she walked along promenade by British police after someone called 999 to report that her daughter might be COLD
Dressed in woolly tights, leggings, an all-in-one vest and fleecy top, nine-month-old Maddy Andrew seemed well wrapped up for winter. But that did not stop a passer-by dialling 999 to report her mother Paula for exposing a child to the cold.
Two policemen were immediately sent to Scarborough seafront to question her about Maddy’s welfare.
‘We’d not even been there ten minutes when the police turned up,’ said Mrs Andrew, who has two other children aged 12 and 14.
‘They could see everything was OK, but they told me that they’d had an anonymous call saying there was a little girl playing on the promenade and she was cold.
‘I explained that she was fine and Maddy certainly looked fine. I told them that we came out to the prom all the time to play. I am not convinced police should be harassing mums playing with their babies.’
Mrs Andrew, who refused to give her name to the officers, said one had claimed it was their duty to ‘keep an eye on these things’.
The temperature was 6.7C when she was interrogated last Friday.
The 43-year-old nutritionist said: ‘Maddy was covered up and wasn’t cold, that was clear. It simply didn’t merit the hassle.
‘Where do you draw the line? Do you police children wearing too many clothes on the beach in summer? Can people dial 999 if they suspect a parent hasn’t put enough sun cream on a youngster? They’d be better off policing McDonald’s and checking that children are not eating too much in there.’
Mrs Andrew was on the promenade with Maddy while her financier husband Mike, 49, was surfing off the beach.
She added: ‘It can take more than an hour for police to turn up if I call in complaining about yobs at the back of my house and sometimes they don’t attend at all, but an anonymous call can send them racing to the promenade.’
When one of the policemen asked Mrs Andrew her name, she responded: ‘This is ridiculous.’ After refusing to reveal who she was, Mrs Andrew, from Scarborough, was asked: ‘So you don’t want to co-operate?’ She said: ‘I told them that it was a mother’s right to play with her daughter and it wasn’t a co-operation thing. ‘I added that they’d be taking her to the social workers next if I gave them my details. I wasn’t doing anything wrong, so I walked off.’
A North Yorkshire Police spokesman said yesterday : ‘All reports concerning the safety of children are taken very seriously by North Yorkshire Police and must be properly checked out.’
But Stephen Hayes, an ex-policeman and writer, said the case typified what was wrong with modern policing.
‘This is by far the barmiest cold case I have ever come across,’ he added. ‘Do officers now need a thermometer to take children’s temperatures along with their truncheons? The mother is clearly not committing a crime by taking her child for a walk along the promenade.
‘In most areas it is easier to order a takeaway pizza and get it delivered than get a response to an emergency 999 call, so it is astonishing that, when there is a swift response, it is to a totally innocent lady playing with her baby.’
UK courts must not decide the fate of foreign children, says top judge
Judges and social workers were yesterday warned that they must not seize control of the lives of foreign children.
No court can order a child from Europe to be taken from their parents or given up for adoption, said Britain’s most senior family law judge, Sir James Munby.
Overseas authorities should always have a say in cases involving their nationals, and the future of foreign children must be decided by courts in their own country, he said.
Judges and social workers must no longer keep their decisions secret or try to gag foreign media either, he added.
Sir James, the president of the Family Division of the High Court, laid down rules for judges dealing with such issues as he handled the case of a 12-year-old boy from Slovakia.
The judge said the Slovak boy - whose case has been heavily reported by newspapers in Bratislava - should live with an aunt. Slovak authorities were closely involved in the case.
It comes six weeks after the scandal over Alessandra Pacchieri, an Italian mother who was forced by a British judge in the secretive Court of Protection to undergo a compulsory caesarean.
Miss Pacchieri, 35, who suffers from bipolar disorder, was sectioned under the Mental Health Act after suffering a breakdown at Stansted Airport during a short visit to Britain.
In secret court hearings, a Court of Protection judge ordered that she undergo a compulsory caesarean, and a family court judge in Chelmsford overruled her pleas and ordered that her baby daughter should be adopted in this country.
Last month Sir James rejected an application by Essex social workers forbidding British and Italian newspapers from naming Miss Pacchieri.
He said that the attempt to deny her a right to speak out in public was ‘an affront to humanity’. Miss Pacchieri may now be named in public, while the name of her baby being brought up in Essex, and her adoptive parents, remain secret.
The case of Miss Pacchieri and the future of her baby have yet to be finalised by the courts. But yesterday in the similar case of the Slovak boy Sir James laid down a series of rules for judges ‘in a wider context’ which he said courts must follow in future.
Sir James said: ‘To seek to shelter in this context behind our normal practice of sitting in private and limiting the permissible flow of information to outsiders is not merely unprincipled; it is likely to be counter-productive and, potentially, extremely damaging.
‘If anyone thinks this an unduly radical approach, they might pause to think how we would react if roles were reversed and the boot was on the other foot.’
He added: ‘It is one of frequently voiced complaints that the courts of England and Wales are exorbitant in their exercise of their care jurisdiction over children from other European countries. ‘The number of care cases involving children from other European countries has risen sharply in recent years and significant numbers of care cases now involve such children.
‘It would be idle to ignore the fact that these concerns are only exacerbated by the fact that the UK is unusual in Europe in permitting the total severance of family ties without parental consent.
'The outcome of care proceedings in England and Wales may be that a child who is a national of another European country is adopted by an English family notwithstanding the vigorous protests of the child’s non-English parents.
'It is one of the frequently voiced complaints that the courts of England and Wales are exorbitant in their exercise of their care jurisdiction over children from other European countries.’
The judge said children must live in Britain for British courts to hold sway.
For a family judge to act, foreign authorities must be permitted in court and kept fully informed, he added.
He said English courts should allow European judges to decide on the lives of children who live mainly in their countries, and English judges should make declarations that they have no jurisdiction in such cases.
Sir James also condemned efforts by social workers and courts in England to silence foreign newspapers.
‘As a general principle, any attempt by the English court to control foreign media, whether directly or indirectly, is simply impermissible,' he said.
'For the courts of another state to assume such a role involves an exercise of jurisdiction which is plainly exorbitant, not least as involving interference in the internal affairs of another state.
'What would we think, what would the English media think, if a family judge in Ruritania were to order the Daily Beast to desist from complaining about the way in which the judicial and other state authorities in Ruritania were handling a case involving an English mother?'
Predatory British property seizure law presumes you are guilty until proven innocent
As top model robbed by police
It's an intriguing tale involving a top international model, a money-laundering ex-boyfriend and a grey safety deposit box held at No 3 Park Street, Mayfair, just behind The Dorchester hotel.
When Oxana Zubakova opened Box 2921 nearly seven years ago and used it to store €100,000 in €500 notes wrapped in the torn-out page of a local property magazine, a £5,500 Tiffany pendant and an £11,000 Cartier necklace, she had no idea it would become a part of Operation Rize, the Metropolitan Police’s biggest crackdowns on organised crime.
Nor could she have known that her battle with the authorities would lead to her London flat being raided by 12 armed officers.
Or that she would fall victim to the unfair stereotype that if a woman is from Russia and successful, her money most come from ‘ill-gotten’ means.
At the Old Bailey last week Oxana lost her appeal to have her assets returned to her. Mr Recorder Martyn Levett ruled that they were the proceeds of crime. Now an incensed Oxana has vowed she will fight on to clear her name.
In an interview with The Mail on Sunday, the 38-year-old model accuses the authorities of ‘robbery’. Remarkably, she says her money would have been safer in Russia rather than England.
Oxana, the first Russian model to become a major success in the West, said: ‘I would understand if this was a Third World country, but in the UK? I believed institutions were honourable in this country.
'But I’ve realised over the past four years that people in power don’t care about the truth – they care about the money. And they misrepresent everything about you to get it. They don’t care about the facts. To me it’s like a total robbery.
‘In court they said, “Aren’t you exaggerating the amount of money models in the fashion world make?” implying that the money must come from something else.’
Despite the judge’s decision, Oxana’s case raises fascinating questions about Operation Rize, a £10 million crackdown by Scotland Yard in which 500 officers spent 11 days smashing their way into 6,717 safety deposit boxes scattered across the capital.
Changed life: She grew up with nothing but she was scouted by Elite at 15 and jetted the world
Changed life: She grew up with nothing but she was scouted by Elite at 15 and jetted the world
While they discovered a vast haul – including £56 million in cash, jewellery, gold, drugs and firearms – half the boxes were empty and the vast majority of those caught up in the raids were innocent. The operation led to a comparatively minor 146 arrests and 30 convictions.
Oxana said: ‘In Russia I would not be surprised by anything – you learn to protect yourself and your family. So would I be surprised by this in Russia? No. Would I be surprised in England? Yes. I was shocked.
‘During the court hearing the judge actually said, “If you’d had €20,000 in the box it would have been OK, but €100,000 is too much.”
Would I be surprised by this in Russia? No, I would not be surprised by anything - you learn to protect yourself. Would I be surprised in England? Yes. I was shocked.
‘Who can decide that €20,000 is OK but €100,000 is too much? It is a lot of money for a lot of people – it would have been a lot of money for my family when I was 15 – but now I am in a different situation.’
Despite the unanimous ruling of the court, Oxana wants to tell her story because she does not believe the facts were presented fairly.
While she may have made a mistake in the company she kept, she feels the British justice system has let her down.
Oxana was born in a small town 285 miles south of Moscow.
When she was 15, she won a modelling competition and picked up a $250,000 (£150,000) cash prize – a fortune at the time. The contest was set up by top model agency Elite, which launched the careers of Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell.
She moved to Paris aged 17, becoming friends with the Ukrainian-born model Olga Kurylenko, who played Bond girl Camille Montes in Quantum Of Solace.
Oxana graced the cover of Vogue, became a house model for Giorgio Armani, and worked for Dior, Yves Saint Laurent and Valentino.
She also took over from Christy Turlington as the worldwide face of Camay soap and set up a business importing designer clothes to Russia and Ukraine.
Oxana said: ‘It was the early days of television adverts in Russia so they played the Camay advert over and over and over again for years. I was seen on screen more than the President, which was crazy.
‘I worked with Naomi Campbell on several jobs. She was always the star of the show but when I worked with her she was always extremely sweet but I guess we all have our bad moments.’
In 2000 she decided to move to London. ‘I loved it. I’m not a big party person, but I liked the nightclub Annabel’s and I loved the club at Momo. Mostly though I preferred going for dinner at places such as the River Café and Zuma.’
It was while she was dining at a small Thai restaurant in South Kensington in 2004 that she met Tarik Meghrabi. As far as Oxana knew he was a successful businessman who ran a luxury car-hire business.
They became lovers and the following year Oxana moved into his £3 million apartment in Upper Grosvenor Street, Mayfair.
The relationship ran into difficulties in early 2007 and it was then that Oxana opened a safety deposit box, as their flat was being renovated and she says she did not want to leave her money in the safe there.
Oxana and Meghrabi finally split up in spring 2008. She says no one was to blame – they simply grew apart. Just weeks later, on June 2, Box 2921 was seized as part of Operation Rize.
The raids had been made possible due to a controversial change in the law. The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA) allows police to seize valuables and cash of £1,000 or more if they suspect it was obtained through crime. It is up to their owners to prove otherwise.
As a result, all those affected by the swoop – many of them Jewish refugees who stashed money away after escaping the Nazis in the Second World War – were left to justify why they kept their personal belongings in a safety deposit box and how they came by them in the first place.
Oxana’s assets became the subject of an investigation by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) – now the National Crime Agency – which believed they must have been linked to Meghrabi who was a co-signatory on the box.
Last February he was jailed for five years and nine months for his role in a £35 million money-laundering scam.
Oxana insists she knew nothing about her former boyfriend’s criminal activities. She also makes the point that there are vast cultural differences between the UK and Russia in terms of attitudes to money.
She said: ‘I grew up in Russia where we don’t have trust in the bank. During the Nineties and the financial collapse, people lost all their money in one day.
‘Until only a few years ago people still used to receive their wages in envelopes. It is common sense for Russians to keep their money in the strongest currency – for many years that was dollars, now it is euros.
‘Of course we have credit cards –we have adapted to the European way – but a lot of people also keep cash. Cash you can rely on.’
The model believed her lawyers had laid out a watertight case and believed it would only be a matter of time before her assets were returned to her.
Instead, her story has taken a very different turn. In October 2009, Oxana’s flat in Cranley Gardens, South Kensington, was raided.
She explained: ‘I’d been in Russia and I got back late one night – about 11.30pm. I came to the door and it fell down on one side.
‘It had been broken down with force. I walked in and everything was turned upside down. The computer was missing, the telephone. I thought I’d been robbed. But I looked at the shelf where my watches were – there were some expensive ones such as Rolex and Cartier – and they were still there.’ This was the first clue that this wasn’t a burglary.
Oxana added: ‘I went into the corridor, not knowing what to do. My neighbours came out and said, “Twelve police officers with machine-guns arrived and were looking for you.”
‘They said they’d been there for hours and had only just gone. They ransacked my flat, blocked my cards, went through everything. I felt like I had been robbed. It just felt like such an abuse of power. Sending people after me with machine-guns to take my own money.’
Terrified, Oxana then returned to Russia. She has not been back to England since and gave her evidence at the Old Bailey via video link.
Having engaged lawyers in Russia and England, Oxana has spent the ensuing four years fighting for the return of her assets.
A hearing was finally fixed for April 11, 2013. The judge ruled against her.
It was her appeal against this ruling that was thrown out last week. Oxana said: ‘I have probably spent more fighting this than the value of what is in the box but it is the principle. This is my money.’
The model is also appalled at the way she was portrayed during the appeal last week. As part of her case, she explained that some of the money had been given to her by a family friend from Spain.
‘It’s true there were several connections between our bank accounts. I have been totally open. They have all the information. He’s an established businessman.
‘It is totally wrong that they talk about him in this way. Just like they wanted to say I was subsidised by Tarik, which is total nonsense. ‘Why can I not have earned my own money?’
‘They [the prosecution] wanted to say everything bad about me. They wanted to make out I have some crazy lifestyle.
‘It’s true I bought a car in cash. Six years ago I bought a Mercedes S Class for £120,000. I intend to clear my name. I will go to the courts in Europe if I have to.
‘I felt my case was very clear-cut. I was shocked that the judge would rule in favour of SOCA.
‘I understand it is unconventional in England to have that money but everything else – the way the case was presented, the things they tried to imply about me – yes, I feel disappointed.
'I thought England would be a country with perfect justice. That you would be protected by the rules, the laws, the Government. Now I know you are not.’
Her lawyer, Jeffrey Lewis of Lewis Nedas, who has represented many other Operation Rize victims, said: ‘In my experience of Operation Rize, many innocent box holders such as Oxana have had to fight tooth-and-nail to demonstrate their lawful ownership yet it’s almost impossible to prove a negative.’
Last night a spokesman for the National Crime Agency said: ‘The judge has made his decision so it would not be appropriate for us to comment.’
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.