The latest criminal justice trends

Data analysis
Official data for 2019 shows fewer defendants, more Crown Courts remands in custody and fewer people sent to prison, but for longer.

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Criminal justice statistics quarterly

Last Thursday (21 May 2020) the Ministry of Justice published its quarterly criminal justice statistics; which means that we have a full data set for 2019. Careful reading revealed a number of interesting trends which I hope readers will find of interest.

Overview

  • The total number of individuals formally dealt with by the criminal justice system (CJS) in England and Wales has been declining since 2015 and fell 1% in the latest year when excluding cautions to 1.52 million.
  • The number of prosecutions has been falling since 2010 and was down another 1% from 2018 to 1.37 million. The offence groups with the largest increase in prosecutions were violence against the person (up 26%, due to the new ‘assaults on emergency workers’ offence introduced in November 2018) and drug offences (up 13%).
  • The overall conviction ratio remained broadly stable at 87%. In the latest year, the conviction ratio for indictable offences fell 1 percentage point to 83% and the conviction ratio for summary offences remains stable at 87%.
  • In the last 5 years the proportion of defendants remanded on bail has continued to fall, while the proportion not remanded continued to increase. The proportion of defendants remanded in custody has remained broadly stable at magistrates’ court (4%) but has been increasing since 2016 at Crown Court (37%).
  • The custody rate for indictable offences fell to 32% from 33% in the latest year.In 2019, the overall custody rate fell to 6% from 7% in 2018. The custody rate for indictable offences fell to 32% (up from 25% in 2009). Changes in custody rates for both of these groups are affected by the changing offence mix.
  • The average custodial sentence length (ACSL) increased to 21.4 months for indictable offences and was 18.9 months overall. ACSL has steadily increased since 2009, when it was 16.5 months for indictable offences and 13.7 months overall.

The MoJ has helpfully summarised the main trends in the infographic reproduced below.

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