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LIES, DAMNED LIES and HOME OFFICE STATISTICS

by on November 16, 2009

EVER HEARD of a guy called Robert Whiston? I ask because, according to Mr Whiston, the Home Office’s rocketing rape figures are just as contrived as its pumped up sex trafficking statistics.

It appears that Mr W is no ignoramus. He has served on committees attached to the Home Office, the Lord Chancellor’s Department and the Ministry of Justice since 1999, and written briefing papers on sexual offending and rape sentencing tariffs in the UK and abroad.Operation Caspian 3_jpg_display

More of this later in this post, but first, what a few weeks we’ve had since I last posted! Coming back to it all and ploughing through a sea of emails, I feel like those NASA scientists extrapolating results from a lunar impact and concluding that yes, sure there’s boring old water on the moon, but look what else we‘ve found!

Just for the record, for those that have been on holiday, it all started with the demolition of the Home Office Pentameter 2 stats on sex trafficking by Nick Davies in the Guardian on October 20.

The two Pentameter inquisitions, for the uninitiated, were months-long combined operations by all 55 UK police forces (and numerous other odds and sods) throughout the parlours and saunas of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, ostensibly aimed at unearthing alleged sex trafficking networks.

Now ever since the first Pentameter, back in 2006, it had been clear reading between the lines that the boys and girls in blue were not finding the Aladdin’s caves full of sultry sex slaves they had been led to believe existed.

Phrases like “charged with a variety of offences” cropped up in contrast to numbers charged with human trafficking, and it has been clear to those who follow the media that most arrests were for brothel keeping, ‘controlling’ a prostitute for gain, or banking the proceeds (‘money laundering’) rather than for proper crimes with real coerced victims worth police time.

Which is not to say that there were no victims, nor genuine cases of coercion. Just not very many of them.

Not that the UK has actually passed any legal anti-Human Sex Trafficking law, you understand. The UN enshrined the international definition of human trafficking nine years ago in Article 3 of the Palermo Protocol, which determines what human trafficking “shall mean.” The UK Home Office sat on its bum for two or three years and then passed a law saying it meant something completely different.

The upshot of this, insofar as adult sex workers are concerned, is that it is illegal for anyone to knowingly arrange or aid their movement into, around or out of the UK if they, or someone else, intend to let them work in their brothel or to ‘control’ them for gain, or breach any of the other myriad offences in the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

This is not what those who drew up the Palermo Protocol had in mind. Nor was it what the nation’s 55 police forces claimed was to be the criteria for human trafficking used during the two much trumpeted Pentameter operations.

Says the Operational Overview written by Dr Tim Brain, Chief Constable of Gloucestershire, who headed Pentameter 2 on behalf of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO):

There are several international protocols that cover trafficking and indeed it is from one of these protocols – the Palermo Protocol – that we took the definition of trafficking used during Pentameter.

This had seemed most peculiar from the start – as the definition was completely at odds with that in UK law, how on earth could Pentameter use that definition? Aren’t UK police officers meant to enforce UK law, as distinct from other people’s?

What seems a great deal more likely is that the Protocol definition was used to identify victims of proper Palermo trafficking, as it is only these victims that qualify for support.

Meanwhile, brothel and controlling charges were scattered like confetti amongst those much maligned persons who, whatever their faults, help keep many sex workers off the streets.

Here’s one Pentameter 2 case, in which 56-year-old mother-of-two Yuzhen Li was jailed for eight months after apparently being trafficked into a management role at a Ramsgate brothel, as reported by Kent Online on May 2 last year:

At the police station, Li said she had won a prize draw for a free UK holiday. She arrived on March 18 [2007] on a six months visa but had overstayed.

She said she had lost her passport and a friend had taken her to the address.

Deborah Charles, for Li, said she had two adult children in China. She came to the UK looking for a cousin but then found herself destitute and when offered the job as a cleaner, decided to go along with it to earn her keep.

Her only financial gain was when she was given some money for a haircut.

She would answer the door and take the money but this was collected later by a man.

She said Li suffered health problems and was very desperate and despondent.

Jailing Li, Judge Adelle Williams said those involved in the management of a brothel commit a serious offence.

She ordered 139 days Li has served on remand, count towards her sentence and recommended her deportation when released.

It doesn’t appear to have struck anybody that this ‘defendant’ shows all the signs of having been trafficked into her role, and that she was very likely a victim of human trafficking for labour and domestic servitude, entitled to respite and compensation rather than incarceration and deportation.

She was charged only with “assisting” in the management, so an upper management was accepted as existing. Claims concerning her fortuitous ‘win’ of a holiday in the immediate aftermath of her arrest at the police station and that she had ‘lost’ her passport would be typical if she feared for loved ones at home, as is normal in Triad trafficking operations.

Yuzhen Li had just three and a half months sentence left to serve after waiting for four and a half months for her case to come up because the UK court system is so clogged up with crap like this.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, the New Labour legislature would have allowed the judge to lock Li up for seven years! Fourteen times as long as when New Labour took office!

But what happened to the women working in this brothel, or indeed in the hundreds and hundreds of other places raided by police during the Pentameter raids?

The two Pentameter inquisitions ‘visited’ 1,337 premises – mostly raids, but also visits to airports, ports etc. There were said to be 760 arrests (of which 528 were during Pentameter 2), of which 222 were charged “with a variety of offences” at the time of the relevant ACPO vice conferences, when their outcomes were reported to an extraordinarily gullible national media.

The first Pentameter was said to have ‘rescued’ 88 trafficking victims and 100 others, though what from, and what ‘rescue‘ meant, was unclear. The second ‘rescued’ 167.

Nick Davies reports over Pentameter 2:

The analysis reveals that 10 of the 55 police forces never found anyone to arrest. And 122 of the 528 arrests announced by police never happened: they were wrongly recorded either through honest bureaucratic error or apparent deceit by forces trying to chalk up arrests which they had not made. Among the 406 real arrests, more than half of those arrested (230) were women, and most were never implicated in trafficking at all.

Of the 406 real arrests, 153 had been released weeks before the police announced the success of the operation: 106 of them without any charge at all and 47 after being cautioned for minor offences. Most of the remaining 253 were not accused of trafficking: 73 were charged with immigration breaches; 76 were eventually convicted of non-trafficking offences involving drugs, driving or management of a brothel; others died, absconded or disappeared off police records.

Of 86 arrested for trafficking, 67 were charged and of those, 47 never made it to court, reports Davies. Only 22 were prosecuted for trafficking, including two originally reported as victims.

Of these 22, seven were acquitted. Of the 15 convicted, two-thirds did not coerce the women involved, and thus would not qualify as human traffickers outside the deviant world of UK Home Office legislation.

Of the five actual human traffickers remaining: “Two of them — Zhen Xu and Fei Zhang — had been in custody since March 2007, a clear seven months before Pentameter started work in October 2007. The other three, Ali Arslan, Edward Facuna and Roman Pacan, were arrested and charged as a result of an operation which began when a female victim went to police in April 2006, well over a year before Pentameter Two began, although the arrests were made while Pentameter was running.”

Meanwhile, the Home Office’s latest estimate still shows 4,000 women and children sex trafficking victims in the UK.

This figure was boosted to no less than 18,000 by Tim Brain at the Pentameter 2 outcome for reasons known to neither man nor beast.

There are no figures for the number of sex workers left on the streets after Pentameter raids on premises up and down the country, or the amount of their incomes stolen from brothel managements and carved up between the CPS, the police and the Home Office under Proceeds of Crime legislation, or the numbers of sex workers with very little English who had lost those they relied on for support.

It was shortly after reading Nick Davies’ piece that I browsed across Robert Whiston, who older readers may remember featuring in the intro to this post.

A couple of months back, Mr Whiston wrote this post entitled “How the panic over rape was orchestrated.”

He begins his piece:

For years the Home Office and the former Lord Chancellor’s Department have misled the media about rape statistics – and allowed the media to misinform the public.

Anxiety has grown as a result of the apparent increase in rape offences and the inability to successfully prosecute offenders. Women have been needlessly alarmed for their safety, when the actual threat is much smaller than has been pretended…This official misinformation, one suspects, was a deliberate policy choice…to ensure that no matter what the cost, rape and sex crimes would climb remorselessly up the political agenda.

Unlike any other crimes, Home Office rape figures use the “attrition rate” rather than the “conviction rate,” he states. In other words, it expresses convictions as a percentage of the number of crimes reported, not the number that have necessarily occurred.

The conviction rate is the percentage convicted out of those brought to trial. The attrition rate is the percentage convicted out of the number of crimes reported.

Out of 483 rape claims initially reviewed, over half were listed as ‘no crime’ or ‘No Further Action’, he states: “Both categories signify a suspicion that the claimed crime did not occur, or did not occur in the way first explained, and requires that the claimant make a retraction before the police can categorise them as ‘no-crime’ or NFA.”

Instead of 10% or less rapes solved, the true conviction rate figure is around 48-52%, says Whiston, backed up by a probe by the BBC’s Ruth Alexander from Radio 4’s More or Less.

In New Zealand, rape claims fell when a compensation scheme was withdrawn, and rose when it was reintroduced, while many other  factors could also affect the claim rate.

© Stephen Paterson and An Anthology of English Pros, 2008-2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Stephen Paterson and An Anthology of English Pros with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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2 Comments
  1. Robert Whiston permalink

    March 3rd 2010.
    You may have noticed that in the last month, ie in Feb/March 2010, that Woman’s Hour (a staunch advocate of HO figures), has had to accept that a new report from the Min ofJustice puts the conviction rate for rape at approx 50% (not 6% as prevosly broadcast). More details of the report can be found at the Straight Statistics website.
    My concern now is this: if there are 12,000 reports of rape and 2,000 convictions what injustice is being done to 10,000 men every year who have thier lives and families turned upside down – sometimes never to recover ?

  2. Hi Robert – Though there’s only your comment here, this post was discussed at some length by an academic list I’m also involved with. The concensus appeared to be that the attrition rate was more suitable for rape figures.

    My argument, though, is that if the rape figures are expressed according to a different formula, then they shouldn’t be mixed with the other figures when crime stats are published – it’s like having one stat in Fahrenheit amongst all the others in Centigrade, and expecting everyone to plough through footnotes to find out. Or maybe both stats should be published.

    It was a good thread on the list – I just wish the comments could have been published here, as it’s a confidential list. But if you’re signed up to this posting, let me know and I’ll try to draw some of the participants to comment here.

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