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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

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

11 things I learnt from latest justice statistics

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The latest criminal justice statistics reveal a number of interesting trends including a drop in the use of cautions and an increase in suspended sentences.

Criminal justice statistics April 2015-March 2016

Every quarter the MoJ publishes quarterly updates to its Criminal Justice Statistics, the latest edition (published on 18 August 2016) covers the 12 months to March 2016.

Below I share what I think are the 11 most interesting key trends — and hope that you find them interesting too.

1: Record low number of people dealt with by the criminal justice system

The total number of individuals (which includes people and companies) who have been dealt with formally by the CJS in England and Wales, has been declining since 2007, and is now at a record low level (period 1970 to March 2016), with 1.7 million individuals dealt with in the 12 months ending March 2016.

Total CJ stats Aug 2016

2: Recorded crime is up, but…

There was an 8% increase in police recorded crime compared with the previous year, to 4.5 million recordings. However, the Crime Survey for England and Wales recorded a 6% decrease. This has led the MoJ quite reasonably to attribute the rise in recorded crime to improved compliance with national recording standards, leading to proportionally more crimes reported to the police being recorded by them.

3: Out of court disposals down

The use of out of court disposals (excluding community resolutions) decreased by 55,700 (22%) in the latest year, with 201,100 individuals issued an out of court disposal. This continues the steady decline in the use of out of court disposals; a decrease of 447,900 (69%) since March 2007.

warnings Aug 2016

4: First time offenders less likely to be cautioned

For the first time offenders dealt with for indictable offences with no previous convictions and cautions were as likely to go to court and be convicted as they were to receive a caution. This compares to only 23% of these offenders having been convicted 10 years ago.

5: Prosecutions at Magistrates’ Courts the same but different

The number of defendants prosecuted at magistrates’ courts for indictable offences has declined overall since the 12 months ending March 2011, from 400,000 to 330,000 in the 12 months ending March 2016. Conversely, the number prosecuted for summary offences has increased over the same period, from 1 million to 1.1 million.

6: Increase in prosecutions for some offences

The increase in summary non-motoring offences has been driven by an increase in defendants prosecuted for TV licence evasion, common assault and battery and failure to pay for a motor vehicle licence.

7: More defendants sent to Crown Court

Defendants sent for trial to the Crown Court account for a greater proportion of all proceedings in the latest year compared to a decade ago; at 6% in the latest year compared to 4% in the 12 months ending March 2006.

8: Police remands down

Police bail and custodial remands have been declining. The proportion of defendants remanded in custody by the police decreased to 10% in the latest year, whereas over the previous four years this varied between 11% and 12%. The proportion of defendants arrested and bailed by police decreased to 24% in the latest year, from 26% in the previous year, whilst the proportion being summonsed increased from 63% to 66%.

9: Fines are more common

The most common sentence given is a fine, accounting for 72% of offenders sentenced in the latest year. This has been consistently the most common sentence over the last decade, when it accounted for 69% of all sentences. The increase of 7 percentage points since March 2011 in the proportion sentenced to fines is due to changes in offence mix and legislation; mostly an increase in the proportion of summary offences (especially speeding and TV licence evasion).

sentencing outcomes Aug 16

10: Suspended sentences up

Since March 2006, the proportion of offenders given suspended sentences has increased by 3 percentage points. They were rarely given before the introduction of the suspended sentence order with community requirements by the Criminal Justice Act (CJA) in 2003. Under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) 2012, these provisions were amended so that, since December 2012, custodial sentences of two years or less can be suspended and the imposition of community requirements is discretionary. This may have contributed to the increase in suspended sentences. Suspended sentences were ordered in almost 15% of indictable offences last year.

11: A greater proportion of offenders have a long criminal record

38% of adults convicted of an indictable offence in 12 months ending March 2016 had a long criminal record (15 or more previous convictions or cautions) compared to 29% in 12 months ending March 2006.

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