Straight Statistics is a site that does, well, statistics and do on the odd occasion something of interest as I have carried their RSS feed for some time and the following article includes copious graphs and commentary and way to big to list here..
How the panic over rape was orchestrated
Congratulations, therefore, to the Radio 4 programme More or Less and its reporter Ruth Alexander, who have put into the public domain what some advisers engaged by Whitehall committees have known for some time.
This official misinformation, one suspects, was a deliberate policy choice (beginning somewhere around 1988) to ensure that no matter what the cost, rape and sex crimes would climb remorselessly up the political agenda.
Since 1999 the Home Office has known that its methods for calculating rape convictions are wrong. The real conviction rate is not the publicly broadcast 10 per cent but closer to 50 per cent (it varies slightly from year to year). In a Minority Report (1) which I wrote for a Home Office committee in 2000 but which advisers refused to forward to ministers who were then actively considering new rape legislation, the HO were told that they were confusing ‘attrition’ rates with ‘conviction’ rates.
The attrition rate refers to the number of convictions secured compared with the number of that particular crime reported to the police (it must be noted that a crime that is ‘reported’ does not automatically imply that the crime actually took place). The conviction rate refers to the number of convictions secured against the number of persons brought to trial for that given offence.
Rape is the only crime judged by the attrition rate. All others – murder, assault, robbery, and so on – are assessed by their conviction rates. Why? The question is best addressed to Betty Moxon who, in 2000, was head of the Sex Offenders Review Team (SORT) for whom I wrote the minority report.
In the most recent edition of More or Less, broadcast last Friday and still available as a podcast, Ruth Alexander questioned why rape has been made an exception. Referring to a new report soon to be published by London Metropolitan University she said it claimed that Britain had the worst record in Europe for rape convictions. Over recent years, she said, the report showed that the conviction rate had fallen from 10 per cent to 6.5 per cent.
But this is based on the misleading attrition rate. When real conviction rates are calculated on a common basis with other crimes, her report endorses our findings of 2000 (and subsequent years), namely that it is more commonly in the 48-52 per cent bracket. Her latest figure, for 2007, was 47 per cent.
But how are we to judge if that is good or bad ? Comparable figures show that the conviction rate, for instance, for Violence Against the Person was 71 per cent.
In the past the Home Office used to publish annual “Criminal Statistics for England and Wales” which were very accessible. Its present embodiment, published by the Ministry of Justice does not helpfully list murder rates or conviction rates. Nonetheless, Ruth Alexander quoted comparable ‘attrition rates’for other crimes, listed below: