Remember - all murders are homicides, but not all homicides are murders

Here's a quick one about the Telegraph, a paper that is no stranger to shonky statistics despite being more 'respectable' than the tabloids.

Since I've recently looked at homicide figures, they're fresh in my mind - so the Telegraph article 'Less than 50pc back death penalty' seems very fishy at the end, when it says:
In 1964, there were fewer than 300 murders. By 1994, the year of the last parliamentary vote, there were 565 and last year there were 850.

Here's another link to 'Homicides, Firearms Offences and Intimate Violence 2006/2007'. It records the number of homicides (murder, manslaughter and infanticide) and goes pretty far back.

There were indeed fewer than 300 homicides in 1964, although it's not clear how they break down and how many were murders. The 1994 figure the hack is using actually represents the number of homicides in 1993. The actual figure for 1994 is 632 - but remember, they count homicides, not murders.

There's a handy breakdown of how many homicides ended up being recorded as murders in the document, and although the figures don't stretch as far back as the 60s or 1994, we can see in an earlier version that in 1995, out of a total of 662 offences that ended up being recorded as manslaughter, 251 ended up being murders. Unless there was some weird freak result in 1994 (or 1993) there were not 565 murders.

The figure for last year is the most out of whack. There are only 757 offences initially recorded as homicide and 743 still recorded as homicide as of November last year. The 805 figure is from 2001/2002 as far as I can tell.

In that year, 275 of the homicides ended up being recorded as murder. Only 22 have been decided to be murders for last year, but most of the cases are still ongoing so we won't be able to accurately say how many murders there were for quite a long time yet. The year before last showed 241, which would show a drop since 1995, although we're still waiting for verdicts on some of those.

The thing is - be cautious when you read anything about the number of murders in any given year. The hack involved is probably talking about homicides for maximum effect. A rise from 'under 300' to 'under 300' isn't that dramatic. Either is 251 to 275. Remember - the journalist's job isn't to tell you accurately what's going on.


John B said...

I agree wholeheartedly - but why are you bashing a piece from 2006?

Five Chinese Crackers said...

Do you know - I haven't a clue. I must have followed a link to it or something and not spotted how old it was. Clever old me, eh?