Prosecutions fall to lowest level on record
Prosecutions in England and Wales have fallen to a record low, official statistics show.
In the year to September, 1.37 million defendants were proceeded against, a drop of 4% on the previous 12 months.
The total number of individuals formally dealt with by the criminal justice system, including by cautions and penalty notices, also fell, by 5%, to 1.59 million.
In both cases, these were the lowest numbers recorded since records started in 1970, the Ministry of Justice confirmed to the Press Association.
The decreases come at a time when the number of crimes reported to police, including violent offences, are on the rise.
Over the same period, forces in England and Wales logged just over five million offences, excluding fraud, which was an 8% increase on the previous year.
The rise was fuelled by jumps in recorded violence against the person, robbery and sexual crimes.
An MoJ report published on Thursday said the increase in recorded crime is “believed to be associated with improved recording among police forces and victims’ greater willingness to report crimes”.
It noted that the separate Crime Survey for England and Wales showed little change year-on-year, estimating that there were 6.2 million incidents of crime over the 12 months to September, excluding fraud and computer misuse.
The criminal justice statistics show the fall in prosecutions was most pronounced for indictable offences, with the number of individuals proceeded against dropping 12% to 245,892.
Falls were recorded in most categories, including violence against the person, sexual offences, theft and drug crimes, but there was a slight uptick in possession of weapons cases.
The overall findings are in line with separate crime outcomes statistics, which showed a fall in the number of crimes dealt with by charge or summons, according to the MoJ paper.
There were also decreases in the numbers of cautions, penalty notices for disorder and community resolutions.
The report stated that the decrease in “out of court disposals” followed a number of policy changes relating to police practice and availability of the sanctions.
Nearly 1.2 million offenders were convicted in the year ending September 2018, a 3% decrease on the previous year.
However, the conviction ratio increased to 87%, the highest in a decade.
An MoJ spokesman said: “Under this government the most serious offenders are more likely to go to prison, and for longer.
“Criminals are also being convicted at the highest rate for a decade, helping protect the public and keep communities safe.
“Sentencing is a matter for independent courts, who take into account the full facts of each case.”