Select Committee on Home Affairs Written Evidence

Annex C


  Detailed sentencing statistics can be found in the Home Office statistical publication "Sentencing Statistics 2005" published in January 2007 and available from the Home Office website. Other relevant publications include "Offender Management Caseload Statistics 2005" published in December 2006 and "Prison Population Projections 2006-13" published in July 2006 both of which are also available from the Home Office website.

  The following paper is a summary of some key statistics on sentencing and the use of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 extracted from a variety of sources.

Trends in sentencing (for indictable offences) for the last decade (1995 to 2005)

  The number of people sentenced at magistrates and Crown Court has stayed roughly the same at around 300,000.

  The custody rate has increased in magistrates and Crown Court.

    —    The average custodial sentence length increased in the Crown Court (note: life and indeterminate sentences not included in this calculation, so may underestimate recent change) but remained stable in the magistrates' courts.

    —    The fine rate decreased in all courts.

    —    The community sentence rate increased in magistrates courts but decreased slightly in the Crown Court.

Changes in the prison population in 2006

    —    The prison population continued to rise throughout 2006. There was a dramatic rise over the summer.

    —    A key factor in this rise has been the sentenced population. There has been:

    —  Increase in recall population.

    —  Fewer parole board releases.

    —  Increase in SSO breaches.

    —  Use of Home Detention Curfew has also fallen.

Has sentencing got more severe?

  Putting offences into 10 groups based on the offence seriousness ranking developed with the Sentencing Guidelines Council, across all 10 groups, custody rates have increased or stayed stable (for least serious offences) at magistrates' courts. Same pattern at the Crown Court except that custody rates have fallen slightly for two offence groups. Average sentence lengths have increased considerably for nine out of 10 offence groups at the Crown Court and remained stable for the other group.

  However, statistical data do not cover all the mitigating and aggravating factors that affect the sentence given. So it is still possible that offences have more aggravating factors than previously.

  But courts are seeing more persistent offenders. For indictable offences, the proportion of first time offenders has been stable but the proportion with 10 or more previous convictions has increased from 29% in 2000 to 37% in 2005. Therefore more of those coming to court have more previous convictions, which may be affecting the severity of sentencing. However, use of custody has increased for both first time offenders and offenders with 10 or more previous convictions between 2000 and 2005.

  Latest figures from the British Crime Survey show there has been little change in the perceived seriousness of the main offence types of vehicle related thefts, burglary, theft from persons, criminal damage and violent incidents compared with 2004-05.

The effect of Indeterminate Public Protection Sentences (IPPs)

    —    The average tariff for IPPs is 30 months.

    —    On 5 January 2007, 88 prisoners had served the tariff part of their sentence. Of the 39 so far considered by the Parole Board, two have been released.

    —    The population held on indeterminate sentences has more than doubled in the last 10 years.

    —    Every month in 2006, around 120 indeterminate sentences commenced.

The effect of Suspended Sentence Orders (SSOs)

    —    Use of SSOs continues to rise, at around 3,500 commencements per month.

    —    Around 42% are for less serious or summary only offences, suggesting that many of those sentenced to SSOs would previously have received community sentences.

    —    The number of breaches for SSOs going to prison rose from 37 in 2004 to 1,640 in 2006.

    —    It is too early to know what the breach rate for SSOs is but if the same breach rate applied to SSOs as community sentences, this would lead to around 2,000 offenders in prison for breach of an SSO.

What's happened to rebalancing sentencing?

    —    Down-tariffing of custody to community and community to fine does not appear to have occurred.

    —    The Guideline on 15% reduction in average custodial sentence lengths of one year or more was expected to save around 1,700 prison places by January 2007 (and up to 5,900 by 2011). This has not occurred either in totality or for individual offences groups (eg burglary, drugs, theft).

    —    For offenders with one to four previous convictions, there appears to have been a shift from fines to community sentences.

    —    The largest increase in the use of custody was for first time offenders.

    —    The increase in community sentences was marked for first-time offenders and those with one to four convictions.

Effect of PNDs and cautions

    —    The offence theft (retail under £200) is the only PND offence which is comparable with an indictable offence.

    —    PNDs for theft (retail under £200) rose between 2004 and 2005. For indictable offences excluding theft from shop, the fine rate decreased over the last decade, with large decreases in recent years. This suggests that usage of fines for indictable offences is decreasing independent of the introduction of PNDs.

Small changes can make big differences

    —    If each magistrates bench increased the headline sentence by one month for each offender sentenced to custody, this would result in approximately 420 more prison places required.

    —    If each judge increased the headline sentence by one month for each offender sentenced to custody, this would require 80 more prison places.

    —    If everyone remanded in custody served an extra day, this would require around 120 extra prison places.

Who is in prison?

    —    Population of 79,700 on Friday 2 March 2007.

    —    12,674 on remand.

    —    66,926 sentenced population and non criminals.

    —    5,064 recallees.

    —    4,329 women.

    —    2,424 juveniles.

    —    11,195 foreign nationals (December 2006).

What are the characteristics of British prisoners?

    —    Around 7,000 serious and violent offenders.

    —    Around 39,000 serious offenders.

    —    Around 8,000 less serious offenders.

    —    Over 75% of short sentences (of less than 12 months) were for: theft and handling (most commonly shoplifting), violence against the person (most commonly for common assaults including ABH), other offences (including breach of an ASBO, affray, absconding from jail, fear or provocation of violence, criminal damage), motoring offences (most commonly for driving while disqualified).

    —    Only 8% of those serving short sentences had less than three previous convictions (for any offence); 35% had between three and 10 and 58% had more than 10 previous convictions.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2007
Prepared 11 June 2007