Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Paedos or phone hackers: Who cost more to catch?

Aside from the uncanny resemblance to Brass Eye in the coverage of the  NSPCC figures on the level of 'child abuse' in the UK, there was a bit of  mischief making that caught my eye in The Sun last week.

After reeling off the numbers from the NSPCC, the newspaper reports that the Met police had the highest number of reported victims. But it then moves on from this to say:

"The Leveson Inquiry into Press standards has heard Scotland Yard has 150 cops working on its phone hacking investigation — and just 27 devoted to nailing paedophiles.
"London’s Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse also told the inquiry the Met’s bill for probing phone hacking is forecast to hit £40million."

You don't need much imagination to think why that little piece of information might have been included.

But what is being compared here are potentially apples and pears. The total forecast cost of one investigation against the annual cost of crime fighting of a different variety.

The figures, as The Sun states, were originally given to the Leveson Inquiry by London Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse were for the total cost of Operation Weeting in its entirety.

Malthouse said: "The forecast cost for Weeting  and related is about £40 million."

The Operation has already been going on for over a year, so comparing the total cost for this against annual figure becomes more flawed with each day that passes in the hacking investigation.

But in the press this has already inaccurately boiled down to more being spent on investigating hacking than is being spent on protecting children from paedophiles. The papers, of course, may have their reasons for disliking this choice of priorities, but even in the minds of readers it raises questions of whether the hacking investigation is really worth it, but this isn't necessarily what is happening.

Take an article from last week's Daily Mail, headlined: 'Scotland Yard spends  £40m investigating phone hacking...£4m more than on child abuse'

The opening line read: "Scotland Yard is spending more investigating phone hacking and corruption than it is tackling child abuse."

For this to be accurate the Operation would need to have lasted just one year, and the same 12 month period than was being referenced for the child abuse figure. Which it isn't.

Likewise it is unclear what the 'and related' includes in the Deputy Mayor's figures, so we are no nearer to knowing how we could even compare spending on hacking and child abuse investigations, were it even deemed an enlightening comparison to make.

Let's see what the Mail have to say for themselves.

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