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Measuring offending : the lessons of feasibility work in the UK

Australian Institute of Criminology, Catriona Mirrlees-Black
27 September 2002 -

Catriona Mirrlees-Black
Programme Director, Offender Research and Analysis, Research, Development and Statistics, Home Office UK


The Home Office is developing a new large scale general population survey to measure levels of offending and substance abuse in the general population. Most surveys of offending have concentrated on young people and few have attempted accurate counts of crime. This paper will outline the proposed methodology for the new survey, drawing on the findings of various feasibility surveys undertaken to inform the development of the survey. The issues covered will include: survey design (cross-sectional or longitudinal); place of interview (school or home); mode of interview (computer assisted or audio assisted); sample selection (whether to include a non-household sample or not); question wording (specifically, how to measure 'crimes'); and, the validity of responses (tested by matching survey responses to conviction data and by in-depth follow up interviews). This seminar is a fuller version of a paper to be presented at the Brisbane ANZSOC Conference 2002 in October.

Catriona Mirrlees-Black is the Director of the Offender Research and Analysis Programme within the Research, Development and Statistics Directorate of the UK Home Office. Her current responsibilities encompass the database of offenders - primarily used to monitor levels of convictions; offending surveys - both general population and prison / probation offender; modelling of offending to inform CJS resource allocation; and, mentally disordered offenders. She has published most extensively on victimisation surveys, including the British Crime Survey (1992 to 1998), the 1996 self-report study of domestic violence, and the 1994 Commercial Victimisation Survey. She also has a number of publications relating to attitudes to the criminal justice system, the most recent showing that improving public knowledge can promote more positive attitudes. She is happy to redirect queries about Home Office research as appropriate and can be contacted at:

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