Comittee of Public Accounts: Press Notice


Committee publishes its 45th Report, Session 2007-08

Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, today said:

€œThe level of recorded violent crime has recently been declining year on year but the public cannot feel much reassurance given the doubling of the number of 15-17 year olds convicted of carrying a knife in public, between 1998-99 and 2005-06, and a similar rise in the number of recorded crimes involving a firearm.

€œKnife crime is a matter of great concern to the public. Using the newly available information about the prevalence of knives at crime scenes, together with other research, the Home Office, police forces and Crime and Disorder Partnerships must tackle the root causes of knife possession among the young. They need to know a lot more about why youths join gangs and how they can be diverted from membership.

€œThis whole subject of violent crime is bedevilled by a continuing lack of reliable data on the effectiveness of interventions. The Home Office has been slow to collect the data and spread good practice. A large number of Partnerships have never used information available from the ambulance service and A&E units, two groups who are no strangers to violent crime. And where Partnerships succeed in collecting information on violent crime in their area, they lack the resources to analyse it.€

Mr Leigh was speaking as the Committee published its 45th Report of this Session which, on the basis of evidence from the Home Office, examined how effectively it was tackling violent crime through distributing funding to Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships, how well it had spread good practice, and how it was working with other national government departments.

Violent crime, has fallen in recent years, in line with crime generally, but more serious violent offences such as homicide and wounding, have not fallen as swiftly. It is these crimes that cause the most harm to individuals and communities. There are a number of worrying trends. For example, the number of recorded crimes involving a firearm doubled between 1998€“99 and 2005€“06, as did the number of 15€“17 year olds convicted of carrying a knife in public.

The fall in crime and violence overall has enabled the Home Office (the Department) to concentrate on tackling more serious violence and gang-related activity. Yet its efforts have been undermined by poor distribution of funding and by the Department€™s mixed performance in spreading good practice. The Department€™s key delivery bodies, Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships (Partnerships), usually receive funding for tackling violence late in the financial year, and money is often one off and short term. This approach to funding results to expenditure being targeted at the consequences of violence, and not its causes.

Partnerships often lack the information, analytical capacity and strategic approach necessary to understand and, therefore, tackle violence in their communities effectively. More than 40% of Partnerships did not consider themselves to have sufficient resources to analyse the violence occurring in their areas. More than half of Partnerships had never used information about violent crime from the ambulance service, and almost as many had never used Accident and Emergency unit information. Fewer than half of Partnerships had a designated violent crime group in place, and only a third had a violent crime strategy.

An important role for the Home Office is to spread good practice about tackling violent crime. Yet only half of the Partnerships thought the Home Office was effective at this. In part, this was because the Department had not collected reliable data on the use and effectiveness of interventions such as Safer School Partnerships, despite both police and schools seeing these arrangements as an effective early deterrent to violent behaviour.