CPS and male victims, the UK Statistics Authority gets involved


[If you are new to this saga, you may wish to catch up here, here, here and here.]

 

At the time we sent our letter to the Guardian, I also sent on a copy and a few additional remarks to the UK Statistics Authority, as a formal report.

The UKSA is an independent body set up by legal statute to oversee official statistics and ensure that all public bodies adhere to a Code of Practice that demands accuracy, transparency, accessibility etc in all official reports. I suggested the UKSA might wish to have a look at the CPS report into Violence Against Women and Girls.

Today I received the following reply [original here]:

Dear Mr Fogg,

Thank you for your letter setting out your concerns about the content and presentation of statistics published by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in the report ‘Violence Against Women and Girls, crime report 2014-15’.

You drew our attention to your concerns that the title and commentary in the ‘Violence Against Women and Girls’ (VAWG) report do not make it explicit that the statistics also include the experiences of male victims of violence.

The Authority has made enquiries with the CPS, and we have been told that the CPS plans to take action in response to feedback about the latest VAWG statistical report quickly; this will include making a range of improvements to the report, and republishing it. The CPS told us that these changes will include updating and extending the commentary in the report to provide further explanation about the overall VAWG approach, while noting that the CPS applies all policies irrespective of gender. The improved narrative will make clear that the coverage of the statistics extends to all defendants and victims, both male and female. The CPS has also committed to ensure that this approach is continued in future statistical releases.

The Code of Practice for Official Statistics requires statistics to be publicised in ways that enable users to identify and access information relevant to their needs. The Authority considers that the title of the report ‘Violence Against Women and Girls, crime report 2014-15’ could present difficulties for users in identifying the full range of statistics that the report contains; a more accurate title of the report might be, for example, ‘Statistics on violence recorded in the court system; including statistics on Violence Against Women and Girls’.

However, we note that the Director of Public Prosecutions has recently written that she considers that “until it is no longer the case that the vast majority of these crimes are committed by men using power, coercion and violence against women, amending the title of VAWG would put the victims of these crimes back into the dark”. Accordingly we suggest that the report makes very clear in the introduction and throughout the reason for the use of this title and the full coverage that the report contains. It is feasible that the proposed amendments to the report will address this issue and we look forward to seeing the republished statistical report.

I am copying this letter to Alison Saunders, the director of Public Prosecutions; Dave Cass at the CPS; and Steve Ellerd-Elliott the Ministry of Justice.

Yours sincerely,

Ed Humpherson
Director General for Regulation

Obviously this is really good news. It’s a pretty firm validation of the original points we raised, but the most important bits come in the last couple of paragraphs, where the regulator makes clear that he does not consider the recent commitments from Alison Saunders to be the end of the issue. The sentence “It is feasible that the proposed amendments to the report will address this issue and we look forward to seeing the republished statistical report.” is particularly telling. I think it is the Civil Service version of a very raised eyebrow.

I think this is also significant because there remains an unresolved issue as to what “violence against women and girls” actually means. It became obvious from both the letter of response signed by feminist groups in the Guardian and then the article written by Saunders that at least some parties are operating to a definition which no reasonable person would recognise. In this letter today, the UKSA has effectively laid down a precedent that says it is simply not acceptable to describe male victims of sexual and intimate crimes as “women and girls.” This may have ramifications far beyond the Crown Prosecution Service.

And finally, I’m very happy that if the promised amendments to the VAWG report prove less than satisfactory, we have a very obvious and powerful avenue down which to turn.

Comments

  1. 123454321 says

    Thankfully there are people like Ed Humpherson in the world.

    Ed – If by the off chance you happen to read this then an indebted thank you along with a tip of the hat goes in your direction. It’s reassuring to know there are some people out there in positions of power with some integrity, decency and common sense.

    May I suggest that the title could be simplified to, for example: ‘Court System Violence Statistics’ and any further breakdown of stats could be broken down as subset headings. That way, Alison – should she still choose to segregate between humans based on gender – would be free to do so as long as the subsets were open, entirely representative, not in the slightest misleading, and fully inclusive. This system would allow for a more expansive and flexible approach in terms of the evolution of reporting future stats.

    The VAWG label coming from an official body like the CPS at such a high level without any reference to the other half of the population remains deplorable when we live in a world where the vast majority of victims of violence are men.

  2. says

    Great news again Ally.

    The sentence “It is feasible that the proposed amendments to the report will address this issue and we look forward to seeing the republished statistical report.” is particularly telling. I think it is the Civil Service version of a very raised eyebrow.

    Yes, the attitude of UKSA towards CPA came across as pretty terse, even tense in that letter. And I think I know why.

    Interestingly (to me at least) I found that the issue of how male victims are treated by the CPS in their Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) report has a story that predates the letter Ally Fogg et al sent CPS by about a year.

    So, Ally, I am afraid I must point out that your letter necessarily wasn’t the thing that first prompted UKSA to contact CPS regarding representation of male victims in the VAWG report.

    In July 2014 then MP Chris Kelly wrote UKSA fielding several questions about the accuracy of crime and justice statistics which was referenced in a speech by Yvette Cooper. Kelly’s letter did contain a reference to the VAWG report, but he did not write anything about male victims.

    However, in UKSA’s reply (26th of September ’14) to Chris Kelly they included an annex where they addressed his questions. Regarding the one question about the accuracy of the VAWG report they note that CPS does not classify the VAWG as official statistics and wrote this (my emphasis):

    We will therefore discuss with CPS whether this report should be
    classified as official statistics, and therefore comply with the Code of Practice for Official
    Statistics in all material respects. We will be following up on this question with CPS directly.
    **We will also be exploring with the Crown Prosecution Service the extent to which their figures
    include domestic violence where the victim is male.**

    The above letter was also copied to Alison Saunders of the CPS.

    On the 4th of December ’14 Alison Saunders and CPS replied to the UKSA. Here she writes that she looks forward to a meeting that is being set up between UKSA, the Home Office and the MoJ on the publication of data related to DV. She did not mention male victims.

    The meeting apparently took place as UKSA references it in a letter sent to Allison Saunders/CPS by the Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir Andrew Dilnot CBE on the 12th of January ’15 this.In it he wrote:

    Statistics Authority officials have recently had a wide-ranging discussion about statistics
    relating to violence against women and girls (VAWG) with officials at the Crown Prosecution
    Service (CPS), Ministry of Justice (MoJ), and Home Office, including the Heads of Profession
    for Statistics at the Home Office and Ministry of Justice. At that meeting it was agreed that:

    One of the following points which was agreed upon was:

    CPS would consider ways of making clearer that the VAWG report also includes
    information about violence against men.

    The letter further stipulates a follow-up meeting to review progress is to be set up.

    It took quite a while for CPS (Alison Saunders) to reply to this letter from UKSA, but on the 9th of April ’15 she wrote back. In the reply Saunders acknowledged the points which had been agreed upon – including:

    The information included in the CPS VAWG Annual Report to explain the data
    used would be reviewed by the CPS and MoJ statisticians ahead of the next
    publication in order to further support accurate interpretation by the public
    including continued consideration of prevalence of violence against males.

    Sir Andrew Dilnot wrote back to Alison Saunders/CPS on the 12th of June ’15. In his reply he states satisfaction that CPS is committed to provide contextual information in their VAWG report. There is no explicit reference to men, but one of the agreed upon contextual information is consideration of male victims.

    I can imagine that the UKSA was a bit miffed when the VAWG report published on the 25ht of June ’15 did not include the contextual information CPS had agreed upon – and confirmed on the 9th of April ’15.

    It’s great to see that there’s even more leverage to ensure that the CPS is making real changes to their report.

    I also wished I knew about UKSA a couple of years ago – perhaps they could’ve helped in making the ONS move faster on the SOA 4.4.c-d inclusion in the CSEW.

    Oh, your doings in this is now a matter of public record Ally: http://www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/reports—correspondence/correspondence/index.html 🙂

  3. 123454321 says

    Excellent, Tamen, it looks like the iron is hot. The CPS is not reacting quick enough. Over 30 million men and boys in UK. Disgraceful. UKSA will now do their job and show they’r worth their salt. Ed Humpherson will know what’s right. Not the right time to listen to rabid, idealistic followers. Time for facts. Let’s hope he gets on with it. If this were the other way around the media would be crawling over everyone like ants. Shame on them. Ally should take this to Woman’s hour as an example, and witness them rejecting the story due to it ‘not being in accordance with listeners’ tastes”, or some other paltry excuse.

  4. says

    So, Ally, I am afraid I must point out that your letter necessarily wasn’t the thing that first prompted UKSA to contact CPS regarding representation of male victims in the VAWG report.

    I notices that this sentence could be interpreted as downplaying Ally and his co-signatories effort and impact on the (hopefully) coming changes to the VAWG report. It is not. Considering that CPS did release the VAWG on the 25th of June without providing the context about male victims which UKSA had put forth (in January this year) and which CPS agreed to/confirmed in April this year I think that the publicity Ally et al got when they published the open letter forced the issue even more and was instrumental in having CPS finally complying with the agreed upon inclusion of and contextual information about male victims.

  5. 123454321 says

    It’s the cumulative efforts that culminate to force a change in behaviour. Ally’s actions were timely in that he was the one who tipped the scales. Skill by judgement coupled with a bit of luck is fine by me as long as the outcome is in favour of ethical values, which this one is. It would be impossible to downplay Ally’s actions, even if you tried.

  6. Paul says

    Once again well done Ally.You and others have shown what can be achieved.And from now on this exchange should make it easier to challenge any future attempts by those who seek to (mis)use statistics whilst pursuing their own agendas.

  7. says

    If anyone is curious about what the “few additional remarks to the UK Statistics Authority” Ally included in his formal report it can be seen here: http://www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/reports—correspondence/correspondence/email-from-mr-ally-fogg-to-uk-statistics-authority.pdf

    One of the points Ally made is that at least one of the cases studies in the VAWG report does not include the gender og male victims. The CPS included the case where the priest Francis Paul Cullen was sentenced to 15 years for child sex abuse. The VAWG report describes his victims as “young boys” while all his victims in fact were boys.

    After a quick scan through the VAWG report there are at least one more of the case studies which does this:

    Honor based violence

    A 44-year-old man was sentenced to three years imprisonment for conspiracy to cause actual bodily harm. The victim was violently attacked by two men and left lying unconscious on the pavement as they fled the scene in a car waiting nearby. The men who carried out the attack were not identified but the defendant orchestrated this pre-planned attack as he did not approve of the victim’s relationship with his niece, which he believed brought shame and dishonour
    upon the family.

    The gender of the victim is not given, although one can guess based on the victim being in a relationship with the offender’s niece.
    A quick google search leads us to the description of this case on CPS’ own webpage:

    A 44 year man has today been sentenced to three years imprisonment at Manchester Crown Court for conspiracy to cause actual bodily harm on another man in Preston on 2nd February 2011.

    Another case is this:

    A cancer treatment doctor in Cambridgeshire took advantage of 18 of his
    young patients who were battling serious illness by systematically sexually abusing them. He admitted 25 charges, including sexual assault of a child under-13 years, sexual activity with a child, causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity and making indecent photographs. He was sentenced to a total of 22 years.

    Genders of the victims are not given, but a quick google search reveals that this is the case of Myles Bradbury who abused 18 boys in his care.

  8. 123454321 says

    Questions then, Tamen:

    Is this by design? If so, who benefits? And what is the benefit?

  9. scoobertron says

    “until it is no longer the case that the vast majority of these crimes are committed by men using power, coercion and violence against women, amending the title of VAWG would put the victims of these crimes back into the dark”

    This is a line of thought that I have never understood. I think it is likely that not enough attention has been given to crimes such as rape and domestic violence. It is laughable to claim, though, that female victims of these crimes are specifically hidden/excluded. On the contrary, discussion of these crimes often assumes by default that the victims are female and the perpertrators male. Similarly, I think it likely that female victims of these crimes generally have better experiences/outcomes when these crimes are reported, or they require support from groups. So how can it make sense to claim that female victims of these crimes are ‘in the dark’, when they are the only victims that feature in the public discussion of these crimes, and when the support structures for victims of these crimes are tailored/targeted almost exclusively towards female victims?

  10. Ally Fogg says

    Tamen [8]

    That’s great info, good work.

    It’s an appropriate juncture to publicly volunteer that actually I made a mistake of my own there. I subsequently learned that there were also two girls abused by Cullen, so I wasn’t quite accurate in that (although the great majority were boys)

    Obviously the point still stands, however!

  11. Luther Blissett says

    A quick question.

    As things stood, Is it theoretically possible for the stats to show a reduction of violence against women and girls if there was only a reduction of violence against men or boys?

    If so, how does that help anybody?

  12. Ally Fogg says

    Luther Blissett

    As things stood, Is it theoretically possible for the stats to show a reduction of violence against women and girls if there was only a reduction of violence against men or boys?

    If someone were to take their statistics only from the CPS VAWG report, then yes.

    In practise, anyone who knew what they were doing would not have gone to this report to answer that question though.

    There was a bigger risk if there had been no intervention and they had continued to use the same definitions over several years, because then people would have begun to see trends in prosecutions, which could easily have shown that the CPS was having more and more success in prosecuting crimes against women and girls. The explanation for that could easily have been that greater number of men and boys were reporting crimes (and there is evidence that the ongoing rise in reported sexual offences is disproportionately accounted for by male victims).

  13. nrjnigel says

    Well done all. The disturbing thing is that the CPS, and in particular the head, has deliberately produced a misleading report for political purposes. One might have assumed the report was sloppily put together by some enthusiastic officials and the CPS is just correcting a silly mistake. Yet this exchange looks like a deliberate attempt to mislead after some considerable efforts to improve the honesty of the CPS and in particular Alison Saunders. One is left with conspiracy rather than cock up for the resulting clearly intentionally misleading report. Far from coming from a pressure group or charity desperate for funding this is after all the Crown Prosecution Service the body taking the decisions on criminal prosecutions. Deeply concerning.

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