It is beyond dispute that the understanding of relatively simple mathematical concepts both in theory and practice has been shown to be beyond the ability of many people however well informed they otherwise might be. When secondary school maths teachers do not require any maths qualification beyond A levels it is no surprise. When it comes to statistical analysis deviously constructed statements leave the vast majority of the population floundering in a morass of uncertainty. Even relatively simple propositions eg the question for the Scottish referendum; "Should Scotland be an independent country?" are negotiated by the interested parties seeking etymological advantage. Therefore how much more does loose journalism or deliberately misleading journalism contribute to the public`s uncertain view of events?
On April 24th I commented upon the Howard League`s own misleading statements of magistrates` sentencing patterns. This was not an elemental error by a minor institution. It was a calculated misuse of statistics and it achieved its aim of widespread publicity in the local press nationwide. Not content with repeating that press handout the Berwick Advertiser went one step further in its coverage. It offered praise to the local magistracy for being amongst the country`s lowest in custodial disposals.
This newspaper therefore assumed that the local bench`s statistics were judicially and socially preferable to those of others with higher levels of custodial sentencing. This is an opinion certainly but no more. There are many arguments to the opposite. There was also an assumption that higher levels of custody are not in line with the local public`s preferences. I do not know. But I do know that such statements in newspapers should be confined to their editorial pages and not their local news pages under â€œLocal Headlines.â€