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Daily Mail: Did not give the full picture in story about crime statistics

A Daily Mail report claiming that last summer's riots in England were "airbrushed from official crime statistics" was likely to have misled readers, the UK Statistics Authority has ruled.

The statistics watchdog carried out research comparing the Mail's claims, made in an article in January, alongside an official Home Office crime report covering the three months to the end of September 2011.

The authority concluded: "The reporting of this information by the Daily Mail is likely to have left its readers with the impression that far fewer crimes were recorded as a result of the disorder in August than was actually the case."

The Mail article quoted official disorder statistics for several of the towns hit by rioting, taken from the Home Office report.

One line read: "In Croydon, where a 144-year-old furniture shop was one of dozens of buildings burned to the ground and a photo of a woman jumping from a first-floor inferno became one of the defining images of the riots, police recorded just seven disorder offences."

However, the UK Statistics Authority said the Mail had selected just one category from the crime report - disorder - and while the figure quoted was accurate, the majority of crimes were logged in other categories such as acquisitive crime, criminal damage and violent offences. 

The authority said: "The Daily Mail article quoted the correct number of specific offences of disorder recorded by the police, but did not give the numbers of the other offences that it used to illustrate the disorder in each area.

"These included serious violent offences (such as murder), criminal damage (to buildings, cars and arson offences), and acquisitive crimes (such as burglary, robbery, vehicle and other theft)."

"The article says that in Croydon the Metropolitan Police only recorded seven disorder offences, while in fact a total of 430 offences were recorded."

According to the BBC's home editor Mark Easton, this is the first time the UK Statistics Authority has scrutinised claims made by the media, instead of its normal focus on government and national politicians.

Easton said: "What is perhaps most interesting about the commentary is that the authority sees its role as taking to task journalists who it deems to have undermined public confidence in official statistics."

The Daily Mail, which won newspaper of the year at the Press Awards last night, had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

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