When you're used to reading the tabloids, there are certain subtle clues you can spot that signal that what is to come is going to be exaggerated, distorted or just plain made up. The odd word or phrase here and there should be enough for you to reach for the salt shaker and start pinching away. You can find them yourself with a little practice.
Here's one. Ready? It's the inclusion of the words 'investigation by the Daily Express'.
They appeared last week in both the Express story 'ONE-IN-SIX RAPES CARRIED OUT BY FOREIGN ATTACKERS' and the Mail's 'One in six rapes committed by foreign attackers, shock police figures reveal'
The Daily Express loves sending out Freedom of Information Act requests to police forces about how many foreigners are arrested and charged with this or that crime and collating the results to show 'shocking' figures to frighten us all in our beds with. The trouble is, they're uniformly rubbish, for a number of reasons.
Firstly, there's a reason why police forces don't actually publish these sorts of statistics, and some don't release them at all. It's because they're not a reliable way to measure how many foreigners have been charged with crimes, which is a bit of a problem when you're trying to work out how many foreigners have been charged with crimes.
Last year, I submitted an FoI request to the Metropolitan Police of my own so I could check a version of this kind of story. In my reply was this disclaimer:
The MPS crime recording system can not be searched to obtain details of someone's status as a 'foreign national', only the nationality they give when the come to the attention of the Police. As a consequence there is no way to distinguish between residents of the UK (regardless of citizenship) and visitors from other countries.Also, people can enter whatever they want into the 'nationality' box on an arrest form and this can never be checked. A recipe for accurate numbers if ever I've seen one.
Secondly, not all police forces will release this sort of information in FoI requests, possibly because of questions about its accuracy. This means the Express is left with very limited information skewed by the inclusion of figures from the Metropolitan Police, which arrests more people (especially 'foreign' ones) by far than any other police force. Since areas with a high percentage of people born overseas are likely to be among the others that actually release information, this is skewed even further.
In 'How many foreign criminals were there in London?' I covered how the Express had tried a similar stunt in 'Every 4 minutes a migrant is arrested in Britain', in which the paper extrapolated information from less than half the police forces in England and Wales across the whole country, despite the fact that over half the arrests the story was on about were made by the Met.
This time, the paper plays its cards much closer to its chest. It doesn't tell us how many forces it contacted, let alone how many replied with full disclosure. It doesn't give us total numbers to get an idea of how many crimes we're talking about. Details are scant.
The scant details that do appear include the information that the Metropolitan Police is one of the forces involved, and that areas with 'high immigration populations' have the highest number of 'foreigners' charged with rape. Well blow me down.
The one actual concrete detail we are given in the story is this:
In Greater London, the worst area affected, foreigners were charged in connection with one in three rapes, statistics obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show.So the worst area affected had foreigners charged for a third of all rapes. Oh my god, that's so shocking!!1!!
Ahem. No it isn't. Here's a scare story from the Daily Mail from three years ago - 'One-third of Londoners born outside Britain'. So, 'foreigners' are just as likely to be charged with rape in London as anyone else. That's not quite so shocking.
We do know that London is included in these figures along with other areas with a high population of immigrants. We know that London's figures aren't that shocking when we take the number of 'foreigners' living in the area to account. We don't know if the same is true for the other areas the paper has answers for, because we're not even told what they all are, let alone the numbers for them.
But we do know that in the areas the Express looked at, 'foreigners' were charged with one in six rapes, right?
The Express slips between the terms 'rape' and 'sex attacks'. The reply to my FoI last year breaks crimes down as far as 'Sexual Offences', which includes rape and other things like sex trafficking. The paper may just be talking about a much wider category of offences that includes rape.
So we might not be talking about 'foreigners', we might not be talking about rape, and we're not talking about the whole of Britain. Other than that, the Express's opening sentence:
FOREIGNERS carried out one in six rapes in Britain last year, police figures have revealed.is fine. Let's chop out the questionable bits for clarity:
...one in six...last year, police figures have revealed.That's better.
This piece of atrocious garbage was written by Nick Fagge, who seems to be a cut rate James Slack without the class. No Sleep 'Till Brooklands covered more of his embarrassingly bad output a couple of weeks ago, Hagley Road to Ladywood (who should be in my bloody blogroll by now) covered a similar story a couple of months earlier, and Septicisle has looked at more of his stuff in the past. The UNHCR was moved to write to the Express about an almost identical story Septicisle looked at, recycled three months later. Recently, the Express has had to pay damages for his inaccurate coverage about a Bulgarian businessman, and previously, Fagge was apparently responsible for over 20 dodgy Madeline McCann stories between November 2007 and January 2008 of the sort that led to the Express's front page apologies and libel payouts. While working for the Sun back in 2001, he dressed as a sheikh and took a sniffer dog to harass the Countess of Wessex for some reason that has been lost in the mists of time, and before that he dressed as a cat to deliver fish and chips to the Queen when it was reported that there were mice in Buckingham Palce's kitchen.
Here are some highlights from his output for the Express, according to Journalisted:
Uproar As French Plan Mini-Sangattes (in an echo of the nonsense Septicisle looked at nearly two years ago, which the UNCHR complained about)
Blunders That Let Migrants Flood In
New Protest Over Jobs For Foreign Workers
Illegal Immigrants In 'Under-18' Scam
Immigration: Britain 'Is To Blame', Says French Minister
Immigration: Britain 'Is To Blame'
Now French Blame Us For Their Migrant Camps Crisis
Failed Asylum Seekers Who Are Too Violent To Send Home
Dole For 1M Migrants After They Go Home
Secret Plot To Let 50Million African Workers Into Eu 'Africans for Essex' anyone?
A classy fellow and principled journalist all round, it seems. I was going to email to request his evidence, but I don't think I'll bother.