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Crime reporting research to start

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

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

His comments came as members raised concerns over claims that published figures may not present the true picture of crime across Scotland.

Conservative 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 in detail using a sample size of 7,000, which is five times bigger than previous samples.

The audit will include violent and sexual crimes, with statisticians saying the results will present a statistically significant picture at both national and divisional level in Police Scotland.

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, and ensure it is being done ethically."

Andy Cowie, Assistant Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland, said that a report would be brought to Parliament when the work is completed in October.

"Not only will the public make a judgement around official statistics but Police Scotland need to have an accurate record if they are going to deploy resources in the most efficient way," he said.

Mr Penman said he would also like to see work carried out on stop-and-search figures and the number of consensual non-legislative searches.

Most stop-searches in Scotland are consensual or non-statutory, and may therefore be refused, including most carried out on children and young people.

Mr Penman added: "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."

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