Home / Insights / Blog / Criminal Prosecutions Fall to a Record Low

Criminal Prosecutions Fall to a Record Low

Criminal Prosecutions Fall to a Record Low

Crime Statistics England and Wales

New criminal justice system statistics show that criminal prosecutions in England and Wales have hit an all-time low despite crime reaching a record high.

The official government figures showed 1.61m individuals were either prosecuted or given an “out-of-court disposal” in the year ending March 2018, a fall of 7% on the previous year and the lowest number since records began in 1970. Out-of-court disposals are sanctions handed out by police on admission of guilt, and include cautions, warnings on cannabis use, fixed penalty fines and restorative justice.

Meanwhile, the report also shows there has been an 11% increase in overall crime, to 5.5m offences, although not all offences recorded result in a charge or prosecution.

Digital evidence is a burden

Prosecutors said one reason for the decline in the number of cases going to court is the enormous amount of digital evidence from devices including mobile phones and PCs which must now be processed and which is taking up more and more manpower.

Police chiefs blamed the trend on cuts in police numbers, changes to the way crimes are recorded and “significant rises” in complex cases such as child sexual exploitation and online fraud.

Responding to the latest figures on prosecutions, a Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said:

“Under this government the most serious offenders are more likely to go to prison, and for longer – helping protect the public and keep communities safe . . . Sentencing is a matter for independent courts, who take into account the circumstances of each case.”

CPS tackles increasingly complex cases

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decides on whether suspects are to be prosecuted. In 2017/18 the CPS prosecuted 533,161 cases and secured 448,327 convictions.

A CPS spokeswoman said: “We will always prosecute cases referred to us by the police where there is enough evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest . . . Last year the CPS prosecuted more than 530,000 cases, with a conviction rate of 84%. Although the number of cases has decreased, there has been an increase in the complexity of the cases we prosecute.”

But John Woodcock MP, a member of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, said: “The system is under so much strain that cases that would have been routinely thought of as being in the interests of justice are now not being followed. We have seen anecdotal evidence that the bar is being raised higher for what is worth pursuing.”

Baroness Newlove, the Victims Commissioner, said: “It is important that we reverse this trend and re-build public trust and confidence. If we don’t, there is a real risk that victims will simply give up reporting the crimes committed against them – thereby creating a real disconnect between the public and our law enforcers.”

Police chief wants more cannabis clubs

A police chief wants cannabis users to be allowed to freely grow and sell the drug without fear of arrest, in so-called “cannabis clubs.”

Arfon Jones, the police and crime commissioner for North Wales, has signalled his support for the collectives where users sell home-grown drugs to one other.

Mr Jones said he was “sympathetic” to clubs allowing users to grow their own cannabis for “regulated consumption by their members.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “The trade and possession of recreational cannabis is illegal in the UK, regardless of where you use it . . . Those using it should be in no doubt that if they are caught they face prosecution and a maximum jail term of five years.”

“How police choose to pursue investigations is an operational decision for Chief Constables, but we are clear that we expect them to enforce the law,” the spokesman added.

Contact our experienced criminal defence solicitors today

IBB Solicitors has one of the leading teams of defence solicitors in West London and the South East. If you are facing a serious criminal charge call us now in complete confidence on 0330 999 4999 for immediate emergency representation. Alternatively please email criminaldefence@ibblaw.co.uk.