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.
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.