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Tagged In:  Ministry of Justice

New figures have shown that courts are increasingly likely to send offenders to prison. The latest Criminal Justice Statistics for 2016 reveal that 1.74m individuals were dealt with by the criminal justice system.

Conviction rate rising

While this is a record low level (for the period 1970 to the year to 2016), the statistics show that the overall conviction rate rose by 1% to 85%, having fluctuated between 82% and 84% between 2007 and 2015. In 2016 the rate for juveniles decreased by 9%.

However, more significantly, the custody rate for indictable offences continues to show an increase. Since 2010, it has risen from 24% to 30% with the average custodial sentence length (ACSL) having gone up from 15.2 months to 19.4 months since 2007.

The figures are contained in the latest data from the Ministry of Justice, which highlights the current crime and sentencing trends across England and Wales for the period January-December 2016.

Changing offender landscape

The statistics relates to indictable proceedings covering the more serious offences such as violent and sexual offences and robbery tried in the Crown Court by a judge and jury; triable-either-way offences, which are triable either a magistrates’ or Crown Court; or summary proceedings which are usually handled in magistrates’ courts. Within the last year, the number of people prosecuted at magistrates’ courts fell by 2%.

The changing offending and sentencing landscape and trends is likely to have an impact on the focus of those working in the sector, including probation officers, substance misuse workers, those in youth offending roles and also personnel working in prisons such as prison officers and prison nurses.

Fall in police cautions

Out of court disposals (OOCDs), sanctions used by the police to address offences without recourse to the courts, have dropped by 57% from 670,000 in 2007 to 285,000 in 2016.
Police cautions issued have also decreased. In 2016, 103,400 offenders were given a caution; an 18% decrease compared with 2015 and a 72% drop from the 362,000 in 2007. Half of cautions issued in 2016 were for indictable offences with the largest for drug (38%) and theft (31%) offences. Offenders dealt with for indictable offences with no previous convictions and cautions are now more likely to go to court and be convicted (53%) than they are to receive a caution.

Fines remain most common sentence

The most common sentence is still a fine, accounting for 74% of sentences in 2016. Since 2006, the proportion of offenders given suspended sentences has doubled while community sentences continue to decline, and discharges have also fallen. The use of community sentences is decreasing across all offence and age groups; it has decreased by 10% in the last year and by 46% over the past decade.

There has been a sharp drop (47%) in absolute discharges since their peak in 2015; while conditional discharges have also decreased by 16% since last year.

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