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
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
The community sentence rate
increased in magistrates courts but decreased slightly in the
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
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
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
The effect of Indeterminate Public Protection
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
Effect of PNDs and cautions
The offence theft (retail under
£200) is the only PND offence which is comparable with an
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
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
Who is in prison?
Population of 79,700 on Friday
2 March 2007.
66,926 sentenced population
and non criminals.
11,195 foreign nationals (December
What are the characteristics of British prisoners?
Around 7,000 serious and violent
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
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