Official rebuke for Sadiq Khan's claim of ‘falling’ knife crime

Sadiq Khan has been rebuked by the official statistics regulator for making an “incorrect” claim about falling knife crime (PA)
Sadiq Khan has been rebuked by the official statistics regulator for making an “incorrect” claim about falling knife crime (PA)

Sadiq Khan has been rebuked by the official statistics regulator for making an “incorrect” claim about falling knife crime that could mislead the public.

Ed Humpherson, director general at the Office for Statistics Regulation, said that a mayoral press release had been wrong to claim that knife crime in the capital has declined since 2016 when Mr Khan took charge at City Hall.

He said that it had “significantly increased across the relevant period” and that his office was “engaging” with City Hall “to encourage it to correct the statement.

“Part of the statement is incorrect and has the potential to mislead the public,” a letter from Mr Humpherson states.

The rebuke follows a complaint to the office about a press release in July that contained quotes from Mr Khan and the claim that “knife and gun crime, homicides and burglary have all fallen since 2016”. The release, which sought to blame any rise in violent crime in the capital on cost of living pressures and the absence of government funding, was issued minutes before official Office for National Statistics data was published showing a big rise in knife crime.

The data showed there were 12,786 knife offences in London in the 12 months to the end of March this year.

That represented a 40 per cent rise on the 9,086 knife crimes in the capital during the equivalent 12-month period to the end of March 2016.

The 2023 total of 12,786 was also up on the 11,231 knife offences recorded by police in the year to the end of March 2017. City Hall tried to defend the claim about falling knife crime by citing Met figures showing a decline since 2016 in the number of offences with injury affecting people under 25. But Mr Humpherson said the mayoral statement had not been “clear on the source of the claims” made about falling knife crime and was “not in line with best practice”.

Meanwhile, more recent figures issued by the Office for National Statistics have shown a further large rise in knife crime in London with 13,503 blade offences recorded in the capital in the year to the end of June. That was 21 per cent up on the previous year and included 7,966 knife-enabled robberies, which represented a 36 per cent jump in such offending.

Many of those robberies would not be included in the “knife crime with injury (under 25)” category used by City Hall to justify Mr Khan’s inaccurate claim about falling knife crime because they either affect older victims or do not result in injury, despite being often highly traumatic for the person robbed.

The inaccurate mayoral claim about falling knife crime in London, which had remained uncorrected for weeks despite the statistics regulator's rebuke, was finally amended after this story was first published online on December 2.

A spokeswoman for the Mayor said that "further detail has been added to a press release issued in July 2023 around the specific reductions achieved with knife crime in the capital" .

The belated change makes it clear that it is knife crime with injury involving victims aged under 25 that has fallen since 2016, rather thanknife crime overall.

The spokeswoman said that homicides in London had also fallen last year to their lowest level since 2014 and that the Mayor's policies,including the Violent Crime Reduction Unit he set up, were having a positive impact.

The spokeswoman added: “But one life lost to violence is one too many and the Mayor recognises there is much more to do. That’s why heis determined to continue tackling the issue by being both tough on crime and tough on the complex causes of crime, which include poverty, deprivation and a lack of opportunities for young Londoners.”

Mr Khan’s record on tackling knife crime after a record number of 30 teenage homicides in 2021, most resulting from stabbings, and continuing high levels of such offending is expected to be one of the key battlegrounds in next year’s mayoral election.

The Mayor has pointed to success in reducing the number of young people being injured by blades as evidence of progress and attacked government spending cuts to youth services and elsewhere for making his task harder.

His Conservative opponents have hit back by accusing Mr Khan of not doing enough to tackle the problem through hot-spot policing and other measures.