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Ministers 'undermining' crime data-swaps

23/05/14

Former cabinet minister Chris Huhne has accused his former colleagues of undermining a pioneering data-swap idea to cut street violence.

 Huhne - forced to quit when he was charged and later jailed for lying about a driving offence - said Conservative ministers were failing to implement the so-called Cardiff model.

 Under the initiative, hospitals give police anonymised data from assault victims in accident and emergency departments, so violence 'hotspots' can be identified.

 It is the brainchild of surgeon Jonathan Shepherd, who - said Huhne - was "fed up with stitching together slashed faces on a Friday and Saturday night".

 Police lack vital information about the places where people are attacked because many fights and injuries, even serious ones, are not reported to forces.

 When Labour was in power, a study found the Cardiff model had cut violent crime by 35%. More recent evidence points to a 42% cut in hospital admissions after attacks.

 In Cardiff alone, said Huhne, collecting the data costs only £5,000 a year but is credited with saving NHS and justice services £800,000.

 Yet, in 2012, only one third of A&E departments were implementing the Cardiff model - a figure expected to creep up to just 50% later this year.

 In a newspaper article, Huhne, a Liberal Democrat, said that poor record was explained by Tory politicians believing "prevention is less sexy than punishment".

 And that attitude was typified by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling's attempt to bring in mandatory jail terms for people caught with a knife for a second time.

 Huhne wrote: "Grayling, Jeremy Hunt and Theresa May - let's name names here - are failing to implement properly the Cardiff model. [It is] a policy that cuts knife crime dramatically. There is real evidence that this works, unlike Grayling's burp.

 "But Grayling appears to be more interested in blaming others for a problem than solving it. Hotspot policing prevents crime: no arrests, no blame-game accusations, no cuts and bruises, no deaths, no punishment. How boring!

 "If poor Grayling proposed to legislate for that, he would never get his headlines in the Sun or the Daily Mail."

 The failure to act came despite the coalition agreement pledging to "make hospitals share non-confidential information with police so they know where gun and knife crime is happening and can target stop-and-search in gun and knife crime hotspots".

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