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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

Lowest number of offenders since records began

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Yet another fall in the total number of individuals formally dealt with by the Justice System in Eng & Wales to the lowest since records began, falling 2% in the latest year.

The latest Criminal Justice Statistics quarterly bulletin (published on 14 November), covering the year from July 2018 to June 2019, makes for odd reading in the middle of an election campaign characterised by candidates promising to get tough on crime.

That’s because the number of individuals formally dealt with by the CJS fell by 2% in the latest year to the lowest number on record. 

That drop continued through the system, as you’d expect: the number of individuals prosecuted at all courts fell by 2% overall, with a 2% increase insummary motoring offences prosecutions offset by decreases in summary non-motoring and indictable offences. In fact, indictable offence prosecutions fell by 5%, in line with the 6% decrease in the number of offences charged by the police.

The worrying part of this trend is that police recorded crime rose overall by 6% (to 5.3 million offences excluding fraud). This is believed to be associated with improved recording among police forces and victims’ greater
willingness to report crimes. This assertion that more recorded crime is explained by better recording fits with the findings from the latest Crime Survey for England and Wales (which estimates personal experiences of crime) which
estimated 6.3 million incidents of crime in the year ending June 2019 (excluding fraud and computer misuse), no change when compared with the previous year.

Trends

Out of Court Disposals down: The number of individuals issued an out of court disposal (OOCD) decreased by 15,000
(6%) to 215,000 between June 2018 and June 2019. This decreasing trend can be seen across all OOCD types apart from community resolutions, and continues the steady decline in the use of OOCDs over the last ten years. The use of community resolutions increased by 8% to 109,000 in the past year in contrast to the downward trend seen since 2016.

Conviction rate stable: remains at 87%, although with a very wide range across different offences.

The proportion of defendants remanded on bail has continued to fall. In the latest year, there was a decrease in the number of defendants remanded on bail by police and at court. The number of defendants remanded on bail by the police has decreased by 10% since June 2018.

Proportion sent to custody down: The custody rate decreased to 6.5%, the lowest in a decade. The numbers sentenced to immediate custody (75,800) was the lowest since 2009.

Average sentence length up: The average custodial sentence length (ACSL) increased to 20.3 months for indictable
offences and was 17.4 months overall (the highest in a decade). ACSL has steadily increased since June 2009, when it
was 16.3 months for indictable offences and 13.5 months overall.

Conclusion

So we have a situation where the number of crimes committed is either stable (Crime Survey data) or increasing (police records) but the number of people being processed through the justice system keeps falling. 

It’s hard not to see that the reduction of 21,000 police officers over the years of austerity is at least part  of the reason.

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