The Daily Express - for when a James Slack scare story just isn't misleading enough

I posted about a Daily Express story earlier today, and signed off with a throwaway comment about how the hack involved rivaled James Slack for including made up nonsense in an immigration scare story. No sooner had I hit 'publish' than I looked on the Mail site and saw a version of the same article there, penned by none other than James Slack himself. I've taken down the older post so I can look at both papers' coverage.

The two stories are 'Foreigners carry out one in every five killings in Britain, police figures reveal' in the Mail, and 'FOREIGNERS ARE TO BLAME FOR ONE IN FIVE OF UK’S MURDERS' in the Express.

Both are rubbish from top to bottom, but the Express article takes away the prize of being the most misleading. Yay, the Daily Express!

These figures were arrived at in a similar way to ones I looked at earlier this year about general crime figures that were included in both papers. I sumbitted an FOI request to the Met Police to try to work out how the two papers had come up with different figures for the same thing. I covered the results in 'How many foreign criminals were there in London?'

What's happened this time is that someone - probably at the Daily Mail - has submitted an FOI request to all 43 police forces in England and Wales, and counted up the numbers of people accused of homicide who specify their nationality on their arrest form.
There were three main things that were misleading about the two papers' earlier crime figures:
  • The figures both papers used didn't actually measure foreign nationals. They're potentially very misleading, which is why the police don't publish them. The Met were explicit about this.
  • The Express had taken figures from only half the police forces in the country and extrapolated them across the forces that didn't respond to their request. This is despite the fact that their figures included those from the Met Police, which almost certainly accounted for more than half the figures they had.
  • The Mail claimed that its figures measured people charged with offences. They didn't. They measured the number of people accused.
The two new articles suffer from similar problems, and more besides. Their figures are from 25 out of 43 police forces and are extrapolated in the same way, although the Mail keeps that fact quiet.

Let's look at the Mail first. It claims:
According to figures revealed under the Freedom of Information Act, the 96 foreign nationals convicted of homicide last year were from 28 different countries.

They were involved in 21 per cent of the total of 461 murder and manslaughter cases. [Taken from the stats from the 25 forces who answered the FOI request, which the paper keeps quiet. There were 755 in total, which is revealed much, much later in the article].
We know it's misleading to count these people as foreign nationals.

It's also misleading to claim they're convicted. Here's how.

'Homicides, Firearm Offences and Intimate Violence 2006/2007' covers the number of homicides in detail. If the Mail is telling the truth, these figures will contain at least 461 convictions for homicide.

But there are only 148.

When the Mail says 'convicted', it means 'accused' - just like it did earlier in the year with the number of foreign criminals in London. The paper's figures are meaningless, since they don't measure foreign nationals and they don't measure convictions.

To add to that, the paper includes this bit of rope for hanging itself with:
The figures show a wide variation between areas. In London, as many as 76 out of 231 identified killers were foreign nationals.

In Manchester, it was eight out of 42, and in Bedfordshire, three out of seven. But in West Yorkshire, it was none out of 47.
So, the force that arrests more foreign nationals than any other is responsible for 79% of the total number of pretend foreigners the paper claims for the 25 forces that answered its request. That means there were only 20 homicides pretend foreigners were arrested for in 24 other forces. 20 out of 230, which makes about one in 11. It's not realistic to assume that the 18 other forces will be the same as the group that includes London.

Here's a quick rundown of all the claims made in the Mail's headline:

Foreigners [lie] carry out [lie] one in every five [fanciful] killings in Britain [lie], police figures reveal [no they don't]

Built on the same soggy house of cards is the Express coverage, which ramps up the hyperbole by pretending we're talking about murder instead of homicide. It does make clear that we're talking about:
Of 461 people convicted of, or charged with... [emphasis mine]
but ruins it by lying, saying they were charged with:
murder in the 12 months before April last year
And it lies about how they're responsible rather than just accused of in the headline. Here's a quick summary of the Express headline and the claims it makes:


There is a reason why this could be worrying. If the Mail is telling the truth about one claim in its story (and there's no reason to think it is, so that's alright), then:
The statistics are so alarming that Home Secretary Jacqui Smith will hold a migrant crime summit on Thursday amid worries that police are struggling to cope.
Of course, the truth of this could well be that the summit has been called to explain how these figures are misleading, or could have been called ages ago and have nothing to do with these figures. The second is more likely, which means this is the screamsheets' attempt to influence proceedings there, like they've managed to mislead tory numpty David Davies, and MigrationWatch, both of whom get their gullible quotes inserted into both papers.

They'll have a good chance of misleading New Labour too, if past experience is anything to go by.

Hurrah for the fourth estate! The slags!

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