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Lies damn lies and crime statistics

Written By: - Date published: 9:00 am, July 8th, 2014 - 19 comments
Categories: crime, david cunliffe, labour, national, police - Tags:

National has for some time trumpeted a reduction in crime rates as being a vindication of its policies. This is despite a reduction being a world wide trend linked to reduced lead levels in petrol. But recent news suggests that there may be a more local reason. Because it seems clear that domestic violence offending in New Zealand is being under reported.

From the Herald:

New figures issued by the Family Violence Clearinghouse at Auckland University show that charges for male assaults against female, applications for protection orders and prosecutions for breaches of protection orders all increased up to 2009-10, but have all fallen since then by between 14 per cent and 29 per cent.

The number of police investigations into family violence incidents kept on climbing from 86,800 in 2010 to 95,100 incidents last year.

But the number of investigations that led to an offence being recorded dropped from 45,500 to 37,900 – from 52 per cent of all incidents investigated in 2010 to 40 per cent last year.

Women’s Refuge policy and research officer Kiri Hannifin said the figures were alarming.

“I find it extraordinary,” she said.

The decline coincided with a new power given to police from July 2010 to issue “police safety orders”, which require an alleged offender to leave the family home for a few days, she said. The orders were supposed to fill a gap in cases where there was no evidence of an offence, but Ms Hannifin said they appeared to be linked to fewer offences being recorded.

“The question to be asked is whether or not [recorded] offences are so low because police safety orders are being used inappropriately.”

So investigations into family violence incidents are increasing significantly but the number of reported offences are dropping.  And this lets National claim that it is getting on top of the crime problem.

Andrew Little was interviewed and claimed that there had been pressure on police to reduce crime statistics.  Head of the Criminal Bar Association Tony Bouchier, a former police officer, thought that the causes for the reduction were more nuanced and more to do with budgetary pressures than an overt desire to reduce crime numbers but he did make the point that he was seeing less and less low level offending such as possession of cannabis, street offending or breaches of liquor bans being prosecuted in Court.

And as pointed out by Jane Drumm also in the Herald article …

 … prosecutions had also dropped because of new prosecution guidelines issued by the Crown Law Office in 2010, and updated in 2013, which “raised the bar” of evidence required for prosecutions.

The new guidelines encouraged prosecutors to make “plea arrangements” with defence lawyers where “releasing the saved costs in court and judicial time, prosecution costs and legal aid resources [could] be better deployed in other areas”.

Ms Hannifin said: “We are dealing with a police force that has been told to lower the [reported] crime rate, we have a court system that has been told to speed up and save costs, and we have an issue that isn’t spoken about very much.”

The increase in domestic violence incidents shows that David Cunliffe’s call for action to be totally appropriate.  His concerns are obviously appropriate given that the incidence of domestic violence in New Zealand is getting worse.

National’s claims of a falling crime rate need to be treated with a degree of scepticism.  And Labour’s proposed policies to eliminate violence against women and children which would be led by the Prime Minister’s Department is a perfectly appropriate response to an issue that is getting worse.

19 comments on “Lies damn lies and crime statistics ”

  1. Pete 1

    I must say I am against Andrew Little’s suggestion to reverse the burden of proof on establishing consent in cases of sexual violation. Just as I was when Owen Glenn raised it in cases of domestic violence. Guilt on accusation is anathema in criminal justice. Yes, it is a hardship for victims to recount their experiences and it is natural to want to protect them from that, but when you’re talking about the state bringing its power to imprison a person it has to prove its case.

    A study in Victoria found that 2.1% of rape cases were found to be on false complaints. I do not want to see that one person in fifty to be given that extra hurdle to overcome. Little’s proposal has a very real risk of sending innocent people to prison.

    There are four possible circumstances (for simplicity’s sake I’ll refer to sex, but these could apply to other forms of sexual conduct).

    • Sex did not occur.
    • Genuine consensual sex took place.
    • Sex took place where the accused reasonably believed consent was given
    • Sex took place where no consent was given and the accused did not reasonably believe consent was given.

    It’s the third case which seems most outrageous to us, because that’s where you there’s a genuine victim: a person who suffers the psychological effects of sexual violation, but in law there’s no crime because the accused did not have the intent – the necessary mental element that goes along with the physical element of the offence.

    The problem is intent matters. Maybe there should be a new kind of offence, in the same way that manslaughter rather than murder takes place if the offender is reckless rather than intending to kill or cause actual bodily harm, perhaps there could be a new kind of offence where the mental element is recklessness in regard to establishing consent, but then again I can’t really think how that would overcome an accused who already had a reasonable belief that consent had been given.

    • karol 1.1

      Is the reporting of “reverse the burden of proof” a mis-representation?

      I understood many wanted to shift from an adversarial approach to an inquisitorial approach.

      We largely have the former where the defendant and prosecution are locked into a contest. in that system, the defendant is presumed innocent until the prosecutors can proof beyond reasonable doubt that they are guilty.

      The shift to an inquisitorial approach is not a simple reversion of “innocent til proven guilty” within that system. The inquisitorial approach aims to investigate the evidence in order to decide what actually happened. The defendant is not presumed guilty or innocent, but the most likely suspect at that point.

      • Pete 1.1.1

        That already happens at preliminary hearings, which in indictable offences take place to establish whether there’s a case to answer. It already provides that initial filter with respect of the most likely suspect.

        Edit: I should say that while preliminary hearings are not in themselves inquisitorial, they can take place without the need for victims to give direct evidence in person.

        • karol 1.1.1.1

          Which kind of supports my contention that it’s not about reversing ‘innocent til proven guilty”.
          The reason not to shift to an adversarial approach is that it does not serve justice, and puts a damaging burden on the alleged survivor. It, in practice puts the survivor under attack from the defence.

          Furthermore, the current adversarial approach is resulting in:

          On the upside the Law Commission reported on options for changing our pre-trial and trial processes to improve the appallingly low 1% conviction rate for sexual violence.

          The above quote is from Jan Logie’s list of what has happened re-domestic violence under this government’s watch.

          In relation to micky’s post, Logie also said this:

          The Green Party surveyed the specialist sexual violence services and found that over 1/3 were looking at having to cut staff or services.

        • Tracey 1.1.1.2

          inquisitorial in the area of domestic and sexual violence should be pilotted. You are still innocent til proven guilty but evidence is not revealled at the beshest of one or other party.

    • mickysavage 1.2

      I don’t think Pete that Little has ever expressed a firm view in support of reversing the onus although I note a few are suggesting this is so.

      The policy states:

      Labour will allow the Law Commission to complete its review on alternative trial mechanisms, including the establishment of a specialist sexual violence court and consider reforms that provide real justice to survivors while protecting the right to be presumed innocent, including: cross examination rules, alternative trial processes, establishment of sexual violence support, specialist training including on the dynamics of violence, support services during justice processes, and changes to the definition of consent.

      Letting the Law Commission finalise its review seems appropriate to me although I personally share your preference that the onus not be changed.

      It seems that the suggestion that Labour would reverse the onus came from a tweet put out by Graeme Edgeler that was then seized upon by Farrar and Slater. But the policy is clear that this would be a matter for the Law Commission to consider.

      • NZ Femme 1.2.1

        Graeme was referring to comments made by Little in relation to Judith Collin’s announcing measures that would allow a negative inference to be made when a defendant opts to use the right to silence.

        https://www.labour.org.nz/media/victims-should-be-centre-domestic-violence-measures

        He does say “A better measure would be to hand control of all examination of a victim to the judge with lawyers for both sides notifying the court which issues they want dealt with, along with shifting the burden of proof on the issue of consent to the defence.”

        But it appears to me that he’s making his personal opinion known, rather than reflecting any actual Labour Policy. (as you said Mickey)

        Even within the Law Commission’s report’s and submissions, there was no mention of shifting the burden of proof that I could find. Possible changes to consent definitions were canvassed, such as adding a positive definition of consent, rather than simply what doesn’t constitute consent. but no conclusions were made due to Judith Collins shelving the whole thing.

        • mickysavage 1.2.1.1

          I wonder NZ Femme if “would” in Little’s statement was meant to be “could”. This would then make it consistent with the policy.

    • Tracey 1.3

      i would like to see a victims sexual history being as irrelevant as an accused previous offending.

  2. karol 2

    The evidence presented in the articles micky refers to, puts into question the whole line being spun by the government that they have reduced crime. If the claims are correct, they are in fact enabling crime to prosper, while reducing the amount of investigating, charging and convictions.

    • ianmac 2.1

      Little V Espiner this morning. http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player/20140789 from 1:42min
      A fair explanation by Little of the need for change and to continue the Law Commission enquiry started but then stopped by National. Requires serious attention.
      Guyon does twist things though doesn’t he?
      1 in 3 women say they have suffered some form of sexual violence. Guyon turns that into 1 in 3 men must have committed violence. Really Guyon?

  3. Jrobin 3

    Guyon Espiner disgracefully used dog whistle politics in the Little interview. He puts a leading question to Little “are you saying that one in three men beat their partners?” This in response to Little’s very reasonable reference to often reported stats in which one in three women have experienced intimate partner violence. This was ludicrously close to the leading question “when did you beat your wife?” . Espiner playing to his low life blogger friends who are stirring up hate and anger between women and men to advantage the National govt. How low are these men prepared to go?

  4. Bill 4

    ffs ms! Just a cursory glance at the study behind that link should have alerted you to a screaming instance of barely veiled social darwinism.

    Only lower IQ people commit crime and indulge in delinquent behaviour like…pregnancy outside of marriage?!

    And the rising/falling curves that just happen to coincide with the application of the neo-liberal thumb screws are to be explained, not (at least in part) by people getting fucked over, and initial, understandably subsiding, reactions to that as the new norm beds in, but by….lead exposure!?

    I’m not saying that contaminants don’t have the potential to shape behaviour. But really? Stop sucking on the lead and we’ll all be higher IQed and therefore dinky, happy, perfectly behaved chappies?

  5. North 5

    From a source I respect (the party being close to the issue and having no reason to lie) I understand that in Northland in the period 2008-2013 reported burglary has increased by 38%.

    When asked whether in his understanding the incidence of crime overall had decreased he smiled wryly and answered, hardly cryptically – “It’s how you deal with the figures…….”. I took that to be a “no”.

    This whole business of “Crime has decreased under our watch…….” needs to be fully checked. It’s a fact that police have been told from on high to resort more frequently to warning and noting in previously routine arrest scenarios. It’s a fact that increasingly arrests are not progressed to prosecution. More ShonKey accounting soundbite ? Paraded as down to the wonder of TheGodKey and OravidaCollins ?

    Hope someone’s looking at this. Herald ‘Investigative’ jonolist Savage Jared……where are ya ? Take a break from OIA-ing eleven year old standard form letters. Check out what looks for all money to be cynical lying to the public why don’t ya ?

  6. bad12 6

    Is not the real question here, with regard to domestic violence reports, whether the Police ability to issue ‘safety orders’ is in fact lowering the severity of such reported domestic violence,

    The bare figures are suggestive of just that, although the reality might of course be something entirely different altogether,

    Whats wrong here of course is the usual ‘chimps’ accounting procedure where bare figures are produced, instead of a comprehensive study being put in place at the same point the Police were given the ‘tool’ of ‘safety orders’, and, we are all left to speculate as to what the figures mean…

  7. McFlock 7

    It’s another symptom of a sick society, setting it up so violent offenders aren’t charged and then boasting about the “lower” crime rate.

  8. RedBaronCV 8

    I have my doubts about those safety orders. They only keep someone away for a few days so are complainants and the kids having to move out at the end of those few days to keep themselves safe?

    Given that DV is usually an underreported crime a few hours cooling off is not an answer.

    Be interesting to hear from some of the groups on the ground whether this is a problem and any research on whether this is actullly working. After all these are not parking offences.

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