Law Statistics From A Different Angle

Click to access WJP_Rule_of_Law_Index_2011_Report.pdf

This is a link to an international report on justice in most countries.  The short summary on the UK is that both our criminal and civil justice lags behind other civilised countries but remains ahead of banana republics.  The report is summarised for the UK on page 102 so I won’t bother.  Both Britain and the US have civil systems more or less only for the rich and income has a lot to do with whether you will be treated fairly by cops or not.

This report used random-representative samples and describes collective opinion.  It disturbs me we come behind the Germans, Dutch, Norwegians and so on.    My guess is our professional classes are largely to blame – though this is outside this report’s scope.

The first refuge of the professional scoundrel is secrecy, often enhanced by statistical polls of everyone to hide what’s really going on.  What we need is work on people who are in the plight of needing the law.  A major reason for this is we tend to be benevolent towards our institutions when asked and wide polling is known just to reflect this.  For the real story you need to find the right sample and wide survey is really only a way of trying to find this.

This report is broad spectrum and doesn’t get to why Germans of all classes tend to use legal dispute procedures and poor Brits and Americans don’t.  The idea is to move on to analysis of people actually using (or not using) services – including the workers doing provision.  The lack of this in the UK is one reason I doubt claims in police and social statistics generally.  The level of expert content is very low – not much more than a glossed-up undergraduate presentation.  We are being gulled by what is really a form of censorship rather than statistics.

Some recent numbers bandied about are that six people out of a hundred who have been long-term unemployed manage to get into 6 months or more work on their own.  The number on welfare to work programmes is about three.  This no doubt indicates a lot – but the big question it raises for me is why a programme that fails 97% is in place at all.  If it’s this hopeless we should bring in civil national service that guarantees a job and let employers compete with that for the workers they need.

The answers lie in modified versions of ‘mystery shopping’ and critical path analysis of actual cases in relevant samples in police complaints, NHS provision, job centres, access to justice and so on.  The cases we do get to know about from Fiona Pilkington to Hillsborough, bent surgeons and dead paedophiles need to be understood in genuine practice.  It is profoundly uninteresting to a statistician that 89% of the general public is satisfied with (say) the IPCC on general knowledge.  What would the responses be if those polled were told eight out of ten people like them thought the organisation a total crock when they had to use it?  Bad cases like Pilkington and Hillsborough become anomalies on assumed general good practice.  We have no means of knowing this is true unless the real sample is polled – that is those involved in the wider practice and plight.

Our current use of ‘statistics’ is like me asking a representative sample of the public how to make a complex chemical rather than using the statistical mechanics and databases of the subject in my day.  People in ACPO and drones like Hardbollox surely can’t not know when they commission useless polls that really only show you can get an opinion out of anyone who knows nothing about an issue and the majority will go for the ‘fine’ response – something we teach isn’t how to poll.  And what of the pollsters and academics who comply?

We were tenth out of 23 wealthy nations on access to civil justice and thirteenth on effective criminal justice.  We were fourth on open government – which leads me to question all the findings!

My guess is this.  Go and sign on at your local job centre and you’ll find no help, no real jobs on their lists and offers of courses to write your cv or based on twaddle like ‘Chicken Soup For The Soul’.  You’ll find the place stacked-out with security staff to keep the happy, satisfied customers happy and satisfied.  The experience will have nothing in common with claims of any minister in power or the rich thieves who have taken millions from the millions in the misery by claiming ‘results’.  Real statistics would be based on such visits and other investigation.  We need such across our institutions.  What is not statistically significant is that people with no direct experience are ‘satisfied’ (how could they be?), but the difference between that sample and that of those with direct experience.


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