work will begin later this month to check the accuracy of crime recording across Scotland, inspectors have told MSPs.

Derek Penman, HM ­Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland, told Holyrood's Justice Committee he wanted to ensure statistics were being gathered "ethically".

His comments came as members raised concerns about claims published figures may not present the true picture of crime.

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Tory MSP Margaret ­Mitchell said there had been reports that police officers had "massaged" statistics.

Mr Penman said inspectors would be looking at the whole process of how crime is recorded, using a sample of 7,000, five times bigger than previous samples. He said: "What we are ­looking to do is increase the sample size that we do, and increase it across the country, because I would like to be in a position to come back and give an assurance, one way or another to be frank, about the efficacy of that crime recording."

Andy Cowie, Assistant Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland, said: "Not only will the public make a judgment around official statistics, but Police Scotland need to have an accurate record if they are going to deploy resources in the most efficient way."

Mr Penman said: "If police officers are effectively seeing young people with alcohol and they are going along and seizing that alcohol, they are doing that within a legislative framework ... if that's being recorded as a consensual search, my own personal view is that it's slanting the figures significantly."