British Criminal System Statistics
By Tom Watkins

Figures are for the year December 1998 - 99 unless otherwise shown and taken from the tabulated data at the end of the Home Office document. Totals/percentages may not fully agree due to the different rounding up in these tables of various figures by the Home Office (nearest 1000, 100 or 10 depending on their size).

All crimes recorded by the police: 5,254,600 (Including misdemeanours)
Just 8% are the more serious woundings or sexual assault (1998).
Prosecutions at Magistrates Courts: 1,879,000
Prosecutions at Crown Courts: 114,600
These figures include non CPS (
Crown Prosecution Service) cases. I presume these are other government organisations like Customs and Excise and Inland Revenue.

The above shows that 94% of prosecutions are dealt with at the Magistrates Court. Where the maximum sentence for a single offence is just six months, proving that the vast majority of crime is of a minor nature contrary to general opinion. A small percentage of those convicted will be referred to the Crown Court for sentence but that does not always mean that sentence will be harsher. This crime is mainly committed by youths; your son, my son or someone else’s son. If its mine or yours, of course they should be treated lightly - that other boy though must be the real culprit and should be treated harshly - or that is the way a lot of people think. Most youths will grow out of this unsociable behaviour but be replaced by the generation behind.


Just over 20% of defendants at the Magistrates Court had their case terminated early. Of the remainder 98.4% were found guilty or pleaded guilty.

(CPS prosecutions account for approximately 95%)

Total defendants dealt with: 110,600
21% of these are people convicted in the magistrates courts and referred to the Crown Court just for sentencing.

Defendants (100%) committed for trial at the Crown Court : 87,400
Pleaded guilty: 21% (coincidence - not those from the Magistrates Court)
Proceedings terminated before trial (charges withdrawn): 14%
Trial stopped and acquitted by the judge after hearing the prosecution evidence: 2%
Acquitted by a jury: 7.7%

So we can deduce that of those committed for trial at Crown Court the remaining 55.3% were found guilty by a jury and that the total judged by a jury was 63% and that juries found around
87.8% of those defendants they judged guilty.


These figures are corroborated by statements in the body text of the Home Office document:
1.) 76.2% of those committed for trial were convicted. (My 55.3% plus the 21% who pleaded guilty).
2.) Ignoring terminations before trial, the conviction rate was 88.7%. (1% down from 1998).

The fact that 16% of prosecutions result in termination before the trial or in acquittal by a judge indicate that there is a large degree of uncertainty in charging people with crime (near misses?) Those found not guilty by jurors will mainly be because the jury empathised with the defendant. One must remember that those found guilty are not done so by calm examination of all the facts, but by an emotional and biased presentation by the prosecution whose sole aim is to get the accused convicted. The British justice system is not a search for the truth but a rigged contest and the jury will be extremely reluctant to find anyone accused of serious crime not guilty. Particularly if it involved violence.

Some other interesting facts.
Prison population at end of the year: 62,100 (Roughly 0.1% of the country population)
Receptions during the year of unsentenced prisoners: 64,600 (on remand).
Receptions during the year of sentenced prisoners: 91,500
Sentences up to 6 months: 53,200
Sentences from 6 months to 4 years: 31,800
Sentences over 4 years: 6,600
The difference between end of year prison population and receptions of course will be those released.

The British prison population in March 2000 was 65,400 (Source: Newbridge)
The number of life-sentence prisoners in the UK has increased by almost 50% since 1993. On the 31st March 2000 a total of 4,469 people were serving life in the prisons of England and Wales. In June 1993 the figure stood at 3095. (Due in the main to mandatory life sentencing, an act of spite introduced to win votes and nothing to do with justice).


A comparison
The US prison population has grown from 739,980 in 1990 to a staggering 2 million in March 2000. This represents 25% of the worlds prison population. The US now has a higher proportion of its population in prison than any other country in history.

There are currently 3600 people awaiting execution - 463 in Texas alone.

The cost of building jails has averaged $7billion per year for the last decade and the annual bill for incarcerating prisoners is now $35billion. The US prison industry employs more than 523,000 people making it the largest employer after General Motors.


Posted: August 2000 Additions October 2000.