The Indy’s Rape Statistics: Wrong Again!

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had pick up The Independent over basic statistical errors and today they’ve made another absolute howler, albeit that at least part of the blame appears to lie with Labour’s Shadow Attorney General, Emily Thornberry:

Emily Thornberry, the shadow Attorney General, whose office uncovered the figures in the House of Commons Library, said: “Everyone with an interest in the protection of women is encouraging rape victims to come forward and it seems that they are starting to. It is therefore profoundly disappointing that we have not seen a surge in the number of decisions to prosecute. In fact, the proportion of rapes being sent for charges, prosecuted and convicted have been shrinking every year under this Government.

Last month the CPS trumpeted the fact that police referrals to them for rape had increased by 8.3 per cent to 5,850 in 2013/14. But the annual report into violence against women and girls omitted to explain that since reports to the police had soared from 16,357 to 20,725 last year – the number of cases taken on to prosecution should have been significantly higher.

The small numerical increase in referrals does not keep up with a huge surge in reports, meaning victims are proportionately more likely to have their case dropped by the police than they have been since records began.

NO.

Based on the most recent audited statistics from the Crown Prosecution Service, the average lead time for rape cases from the point at which an alleged offence occurred to the point at which charges are preferred against a suspect is just over 430 days.

The reason that the small numerical increase in referrals in 2013/14 has not kept up with the large surge in reports in the same year is not because there has been a fall in the number of referrals but because the lead time in rape cases means that the vast majority of last year’s referrals relate to alleged offences that were reported to the police in 2012/13, and some cases even earlier than that.

Right now, we don’t know what effect the surge in reported cases in 2013/14 will have on the CPS figures for referrals because the vast majority of those cases will not begin to appear in the CPS data until this year (2014/15), figure that will not be published by the CPS until (from memory) around January/February 2016.

Add in the fact that, at this stage, we have no idea at all what proportion, if any, of that “surge” in reported cases stems from people coming forward to report historical offences in the wake of the publicity surrounding Jimmy Savile, Rolf Harris, etc – and for what should be obvious reasons (i.e. lack of physical evidence, etc) historical offences are likely to take longer to investigate and may be much less likely to lead to charges than contemporary offences, not least because in some cases the alleged perpetrator may already be deceased – and it should be clear that it may be 2-3 years before we actually get anything approaching an accurate assessment of the impact that last year’s rise in reported cases will have on the number of cases the CPS takes forward to prosecution let alone the number of actual convictions those cases generate.

Although the figures themselves are correct, the interpretation placed on them isn’t because both Thornberry and the Indy have failed to take into account the lead time between offence and charging decision.

Sorry.

 

You Couldn’t Make It Up… unless you’re Richard Littlejohn

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the statement “Richard Littlejohn is liar” is closer to being a tautology than an observation but even by his usual pitiful standards his contribution to the burgeoning debate surrounding recent events in a number of Birmingham schools stands out as masterpiece of bullshit and utter fabrication:

Amid all the furore about Islamist infiltration of schools in Birmingham, another story involving the education watchdog Ofsted has received rather less attention. Inspectors have criticised a rural school in Devon for being insufficiently ‘diverse’. Although they concede that Payhembury Primary is a ‘happy place’, it has been denied an ‘outstanding’ rating because all 68 pupils are of ‘white British heritage’. Well, they would be. Small villages in… Read more »

What Saatchi Doesn’t Tell You

Okay, I’m going to keep this short and sweet because I’m working on something else at the moment but there a little something that I want to toss into the growing online debate about the “Saatchi Bill” or, to give its proper title, the Medical Innovation Bill. The back story here, if you’ve not come across it before, starts with the death, in 2011, of the author Josephine Hart the cause of which was primary peritoneal cancer. Hart was married to the wealthy PR guru and Conservative peer Maurice Saatchi and it is as a member of the House of Lords that Saatchi is seeking to introduce a private Bill which he claims which he, his supporters and a slick and… Read more »

The Indy plumbs new depths of irresponsibility

I expect at least some of you will recall that “The Independent” was originally launched as a quality newspaper. Those days have, however, long since passed as evidenced by today’s front page splash: But before you take any of those statements too seriously, you really pay close attention to the caveats in paragraphs 9 & 10 of the article that goes with this scaremongering headline:

Commenting on the new studies, Dr Aylin said they added up to “powerful” evidence of a global problem in healthcare. “The German study is interesting in raising afternoon surgery as an issue, but as the authors acknowledge, it may be that ‘the patients treated in the afternoon and on the weekends were more severely ill’,” he said…. Read more »

DoH report refutes Indy’s “Lost Girls” Sex-Selective Abortion Exposé

Sometimes it’s not so much what newspapers print as what they don’t print that matters. Last week, for example, the Department of Health published what was supposedly “new” guidance on sex-selective abortion, if a simple restatement of the existing legal position, which remains entirely unchanged, can actually be called “new”. The Telegraph, which has been pushing the issue of sex-selective abortion for quite some time, made a bit of a show of reporting the story and, of course, complaining bitterly that their own ‘sting’ operation on two doctors who were allegedly willing to carry out sex-selective abortions, when they were approached by an undercover journalist working for the newspaper, failed to result in any kind of prosecution. However, as I… Read more »

Doctor Who, Female Writers and an Inconvenient Truth

I think I said most of what I have to say on the subject of bringing more female writers in to work on Doctor Who last year and I really can’t see that much has changed or moved on in last twelve months, other that maybe that Jane Goldman could be entirely forgiven for telling the British SF community to go fuck themselves after the way her husband, Jonathan Ross, was treated over an invitation to present this year’s Hugo Awards. Just because I’ve nothing much to add at the moment doesn’t mean, of course, that this issue shouldn’t or that it’s wrong to ask searching questions about some of the editorial decisions that will shape the next series. There… Read more »

What The Telegraph doesn’t tell you about Sex-Selective Abortion

Harry G Frankfurt’s classic monograph “On Bullshit” begins with a very simple but striking observation:

One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit.

There is indeed and much of it is, sadly, to be found on the pages of national newspapers where, today, we find The Daily Telegraph operating firmly in bullshit mode:

Jeremy Hunt is to issue new guidance making it clear to doctors that sex-selective abortion is “unacceptable and illegal”.

Hunt can issue all the guidance he likes, it doesn’t alter the fact that the Abortion Act 1967 is entirely silent on the subject of sex-selective abortion or that such abortions will remain entirely lawful provided that they can be justified… Read more »

Drinkable Sunscreen “Doctor” ran Online “Pill Mill”

A couple of days of ago, the travel sections of the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail – or, as I prefer to think of them, Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber – both ran what were essentially advertorials for the same new product; “Harmonized H20 UV“, which is being marketed by a Colorado-based company, Osmosis Pur Medical Skincare, at £17 per 100ml bottle as a “drinkable sunscreen”. Now I know what you’re thinking because I had exact same thought when I read the story – B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T – and I’m pleased to say that the good folks at the British Dermatological Association had much the same thoughts. So they fired off an email to the creator of this new “wonder” product, “Dr” Ben Johnson… Read more »

What “Porn Culture”? (Part 1)

[This is the first of two articles looking in depth at testimony given to a Pennsylvania District Court by Gail Dines while acting as an "expert" witness for the US Department of Justice and, as you might well imagine, it's a pretty long article so for the sake of convenience, if you'd prefer to read it offline using an e-book reader then you can download it as a PDF. Part one, which is that part, deals with Dines’ attempt to analyse porn-related search engine traffic. Part two, which will be posted in a few days, deals with her analysis of the content of porn tube websites and will include not only an overview of how and why the porn industry… Read more »

Gail Dines: Short on Facts, Crap Figures

*** Warning – Very long post ahead. Get supplies before sitting down to read ***

Last time around I followed the trail of just one dubiously provenanced Internet porn ‘statistic’ from its first appearance in 2003 on a US website owned by tech entrepreneur and content filter salesman, Jerry Ropelato, through its subsequent appearance in everything from academic literature to an official report published by the International Telecommunications Union, all without anyone, it seems, bothering to check the validity of that ‘statistic’ for which there is currently no known original source. I put that last article together to serve as a precursor to this one, which looks in detail at a variety of statistics and other items of ‘factual’ information published on a… Read more »