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Prosecutions fall by over a quarter in 2020

Official figures for 2020 show prosecutions down 26% but out of court disposals up by 18% on 2019.

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Criminal Justice Statistics for 2020

The Ministry of Justice and the Office for National Statistics have just (20 May 2021) published the criminal justice statistics bulletin for 2020. It clearly shows the impact of the pandemic with a big (26%) fall in the number of people prosecuted or given an out of court disposal. The MoJ & ONS have helpfully published an infographic summarising almost all the main trends. I reproduce this below but start by drawing attention to some of the headline figures.


The main trends were:

  • Prosecutions in magistrates’ courts down 30%
  • But an 18% increase in Out of Court Disposals mainly driven by a 32% increase in community resolutions, of which 135,000 were issued. The reasons for this increase are unclear, there is no indication whether the jump in numbers is related to incidents dispersing people under lockdown rules.
  • There were however 4,000 prosecutions and 3,500 convictions for breaching emergency COVID restrictions with almost everyone convicted (99%) receiving a fine.
  • As I have already covered on the blog, the proportion of defendants remanded in custody was at a 5-year high.
  • While the number of custodial sentences fell by 19% to 61,900 in 2020 (owing to the drop in cases because of COVID), yet the custody rate increased to 8%, the highest since 2013, driven by courts prioritising more serious offences during COVID-19 that were more likely to receive custodial sentences.

Thanks to James Eades for permission to use the header image previously published on Unsplash.

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