Prosecutions and convictions

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1. Main facts and figures

  • since 2009, the conviction ratio (the percentage of defendants convicted out of all those prosecuted) for indictable-only or 'either way' offences has increased for all ethnic groups

  • in 2016, the conviction ratio for Black, Asian, Mixed, and Chinese and Other ethnic groups was 81%

  • in 2016, the conviction ratio was highest for defendants in the White ethnic group, at 86%

Things you need to know

This data measures the number of defendants prosecuted, and the number of defendants convicted, within a particular year.

Prosecutions are counted in the year that the case is completed at magistrates' courts, where nearly all criminal cases start. Convictions are counted in the year the case is completed where the offender is convicted, which may be the magistrates' court or Crown Court.

If a prosecution begins in a magistrates’ court and moves to the Crown Court, the prosecution and conviction may fall in different years. This means that for any given year the number of convictions may be greater than the number of prosecutions.

Defendants who appear before both courts may be convicted at Crown Court for a different offence to the one for which they were originally prosecuted.

What the data measures

The data measures the number of defendants found guilty within a given year for a certain offence, as a percentage of all defendants who were prosecuted that year for the same offence. This is referred to as the 'conviction ratio'.

The data is broken down by the ethnic group, sex and age group of the defendant.

Where an offender was found guilty of more than one offence, the data includes the offence for which they were given the heaviest penalty. If they were given the same penalty for more than one offence, the data includes the offence with the heaviest statutory maximum penalty. Where more than one sentence is given for an offence, the most serious sentence is included in the data.

There are three broad types of offence:

  • indictable-only offences, such as murder or rape, which can only be heard in the Crown Court
  • offences that are triable either way, which means they can be heard in either a magistrates’ court or in the Crown Court, and include offences like theft from shops and handling stolen goods
  • summary offences, such as speeding and TV licence evasion, which are heard in a magistrates’ court

This data only shows indictable only offences and offences that are triable either way (also called ‘either way’ offences).

Nearly all criminal cases start in the magistrates’ courts. Prosecutions for indictable-only offences, and for ‘either way’ offences where the defendant has chosen to have a jury trial or where the magistrates feel the case is of sufficient seriousness, are passed from there to the Crown Court.

The ethnic categories used in this data

This data uses the following broad ethnic groups based on the 2001 Census:

  • Asian/Asian British
  • Black/African/Caribbean/Black British
  • Mixed/Multiple ethnic groups
  • White
  • Other ethnic group (including Chinese)

There is also a ‘not stated’ category, made up of people whose ethnicity wasn’t known or who chose not to declare it. This analysis excludes those in the ‘not stated’ category (about 1 in 5 offenders).

2. Conviction ratio by ethnicity of defendant over time

Number of prosecutions and convictions, and conviction ratio, by ethnicity of defendant over time
2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Ethnicity 2009 % 2009 Prosecutions 2009 Convictions 2010 % 2010 Prosecutions 2010 Convictions 2011 % 2011 Prosecutions 2011 Convictions 2012 % 2012 Prosecutions 2012 Convictions 2013 % 2013 Prosecutions 2013 Convictions 2014 % 2014 Prosecutions 2014 Convictions 2015 % 2015 Prosecutions 2015 Convictions 2016 % 2016 Prosecutions 2016 Convictions
All 79 414,659 328,449 80 436,932 349,832 81 422,858 343,052 82 375,864 308,111 80 369,495 293,807 80 354,137 282,568 82 322,329 265,812 84 291,725 245,379
Asian 72 19,171 13,759 76 20,557 15,714 78 20,164 15,750 78 17,745 13,895 73 18,005 13,215 74 16,736 12,437 78 15,426 11,972 81 14,716 11,845
Black 73 32,453 23,581 76 34,725 26,403 79 33,826 26,572 79 29,153 23,051 76 28,728 21,858 77 27,045 20,755 80 25,005 19,903 81 25,000 20,148
Mixed 71 11,592 8,237 75 12,817 9,645 77 12,581 9,742 78 10,839 8,497 76 10,542 7,979 76 9,630 7,299 77 9,196 7,121 81 7,615 6,184
White 79 294,080 231,485 81 317,998 258,471 83 305,675 253,227 84 268,301 225,426 82 260,857 212,567 82 247,209 201,619 84 217,298 183,183 86 185,403 159,449
Chinese and other 74 5,134 3,799 82 5,235 4,288 81 4,896 3,969 83 4,193 3,470 82 4,156 3,407 80 3,627 2,895 84 3,399 2,870 81 3,077 2,501
Unknown 91 52,229 47,588 77 45,600 35,311 74 45,716 33,792 74 45,633 33,772 74 47,207 34,781 75 49,890 37,563 78 52,005 40,763 81 55,914 45,252

Download table data for ‘Conviction ratio by ethnicity of defendant over time’ (CSV) Source data for ‘Conviction ratio by ethnicity of defendant over time’ (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • from 2009 to 2016, the conviction ratio (the percentage of defendants convicted out of all those prosecuted) for indictable-only or ‘either way’ offences increased for all ethnic groups, from 79% in 2009 to 84% in 2016

  • however, the total number of prosecutions and convictions has decreased over the same period – prosecutions fell from 437,000 in 2010 to 292,000 in 2016 (around 30% fewer), while convictions fell from 350,000 in 2010 to 245,000 in 2016 (around 25% fewer)

  • in 2016, White defendants had the highest conviction ratio, at 86%

  • in 2016, the conviction ratios for Black, Asian, Mixed, and Chinese and Other ethnic groups was 81%

3. Conviction ratio by ethnicity and sex of defendant

Number of prosecutions and convictions, and conviction ratio, by ethnicity and sex of defendant over time
2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Ethnicity and Sex 2009 % 2009 Prosecutions 2009 Convictions 2010 % 2010 Prosecutions 2010 Convictions 2011 % 2011 Prosecutions 2011 Convictions 2012 % 2012 Prosecutions 2012 Convictions 2013 % 2013 Prosecutions 2013 Convictions 2014 % 2014 Prosecutions 2014 Convictions 2015 % 2015 Prosecutions 2015 Convictions 2016 % 2016 Prosecutions 2016 Convictions
Asian Female 72 1,174 840 73 1,301 945 72 1,268 906 75 1,016 759 68 1,065 727 71 943 666 70 934 658 73 871 634
Asian Male 72 17,964 12,905 77 19,221 14,755 79 18,861 14,825 79 16,672 13,112 74 16,838 12,451 75 15,718 11,740 78 14,395 11,277 81 13,753 11,176
Asian Unknown 42 33 14 40 35 14 54 35 19 42 57 24 36 102 37 41 75 31 38 97 37 38 92 35
Black Female 76 3,888 2,953 74 4,201 3,127 80 3,470 2,790 80 2,817 2,242 75 2,633 1,965 74 2,650 1,963 79 2,381 1,874 77 2,205 1,695
Black Male 72 28,463 20,577 76 30,438 23,236 78 30,294 23,746 79 26,263 20,769 76 26,003 19,855 77 24,313 18,748 80 22,513 17,970 81 22,670 18,375
Black Unknown 50 102 51 47 86 40 58 62 36 55 73 40 41 92 38 54 82 44 53 111 59 62 125 78
Mixed Female 70 1,738 1,221 75 1,856 1,392 76 1,795 1,359 77 1,364 1,050 75 1,294 970 76 1,349 1,019 78 1,237 970 78 967 749
Mixed Male 71 9,832 7,001 75 10,942 8,242 78 10,771 8,376 79 9,450 7,431 76 9,231 7,001 76 8,240 6,264 77 7,930 6,136 82 6,615 5,415
Mixed Unknown 68 22 15 58 19 11 47 15 7 64 25 16 47 17 8 39 41 16 52 29 15 61 33 20
White Female 80 43,722 34,801 81 46,948 37,805 82 44,076 36,133 84 38,350 32,064 81 37,685 30,367 81 37,325 30,288 84 32,811 27,529 85 28,088 23,882
White Male 79 249,942 196,446 81 270,756 220,505 83 261,275 216,884 84 229,514 193,103 82 222,618 181,883 82 209,231 170,947 85 183,928 155,334 86 156,777 135,218
White Unknown 57 416 238 55 294 161 65 324 210 59 437 259 57 554 317 59 653 384 57 559 320 65 538 349
Chinese and other Female 77 729 564 78 773 602 82 636 523 86 499 427 83 519 429 84 443 372 90 398 358 76 371 281
Chinese and other Male 74 4,387 3,225 83 4,453 3,682 81 4,247 3,438 83 3,675 3,034 82 3,620 2,969 79 3,175 2,518 84 2,982 2,502 82 2,692 2,211
Chinese and other Unknown 56 18 10 44 9 4 62 13 8 47 19 9 53 17 9 56 9 5 53 19 10 64 14 9
Unknown Female 84 10,324 8,626 77 9,408 7,243 75 8,973 6,762 73 8,383 6,149 74 8,922 6,635 77 10,326 7,924 81 10,244 8,328 83 9,529 7,892
Unknown Male 96 39,112 37,434 79 33,278 26,364 75 33,096 24,953 76 33,357 25,401 76 33,790 25,693 77 35,009 27,097 81 36,971 29,839 83 41,612 34,680
Unknown 55 2,793 1,528 59 2,914 1,704 57 3,647 2,077 57 3,893 2,222 55 4,495 2,453 56 4,555 2,542 54 4,790 2,596 56 4,773 2,680

Download table data for ‘Conviction ratio by ethnicity and sex of defendant’ (CSV) Source data for ‘Conviction ratio by ethnicity and sex of defendant’ (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • from 2009 to 2016, the conviction ratio (the percentage of defendants convicted out of all those prosecuted) for indictable-only or ‘either way’ offences was similar for male and female defendants – for example, in 2016, 85% of male defendants and 84% of female defendants were convicted

  • in 2016, the White ethnic group had the highest conviction ratio for both male and female defendants, at 86% and 85% respectively

  • in 2016, the Black and Asian ethnic groups had the lowest conviction ratios for male defendants (both at 81%), and the Asian ethnic group had the lowest for female defendants (at 73%)

  • there was more variation between ethnic groups in the conviction ratio for female offenders than for male offenders in 2016 – this ranged from 73% to 85% for female offenders, and from 81% to 86% for male offenders

4. Conviction ratio by ethnicity and age group of defendant

Number of prosecutions and convictions, and conviction ratio, by ethnicity and age group of defendant over time
2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Ethnicity and age group 2009 % 2009 Prosecutions 2009 Convictions 2010 % 2010 Prosecutions 2010 Convictions 2011 % 2011 Prosecutions 2011 Convictions 2012 % 2012 Prosecutions 2012 Convictions 2013 % 2013 Prosecutions 2013 Convictions 2014 % 2014 Prosecutions 2014 Convictions 2015 % 2015 Prosecutions 2015 Convictions 2016 % 2016 Prosecutions 2016 Convictions
Asian Adults 72 16,856 12,130 77 18,165 14,005 79 17,862 14,067 79 15,916 12,524 74 16,450 12,133 75 15,570 11,620 78 14,355 11,192 81 13,715 11,110
Asian Juveniles 70 2,315 1,629 71 2,392 1,709 73 2,302 1,683 75 1,829 1,371 70 1,555 1,082 70 1,166 817 73 1,071 780 73 1,001 735
Black Adults 73 27,054 19,742 78 28,599 22,183 80 27,744 22,253 80 24,586 19,747 77 25,035 19,267 78 24,016 18,656 81 22,163 17,904 82 22,106 18,145
Black Juveniles 71 5,399 3,839 69 6,126 4,220 71 6,082 4,319 72 4,567 3,304 70 3,693 2,591 69 3,029 2,099 70 2,842 1,999 69 2,894 2,003
Mixed Adults 71 8,825 6,247 76 10,000 7,626 78 9,815 7,699 80 8,757 6,998 77 8,899 6,859 77 8,204 6,321 79 7,885 6,226 83 6,623 5,476
Mixed Juveniles 72 2,767 1,990 72 2,817 2,019 74 2,766 2,043 72 2,082 1,499 68 1,643 1,120 69 1,426 978 68 1,311 895 71 992 708
White Adults 79 253,551 199,580 82 279,130 228,389 84 273,075 227,894 85 244,101 206,851 82 242,282 198,893 82 231,342 190,241 85 204,301 173,808 87 175,188 152,066
White Juveniles 79 40,529 31,905 77 38,868 30,082 78 32,600 25,333 77 24,200 18,575 74 18,575 13,674 72 15,867 11,378 72 12,997 9,375 72 10,215 7,383
Chinese and other Adults 74 4,687 3,488 83 4,817 3,985 82 4,444 3,646 83 3,811 3,180 83 3,869 3,204 81 3,389 2,741 85 3,165 2,687 82 2,859 2,346
Chinese and other Juveniles 70 447 311 73 418 303 72 452 323 76 382 290 71 287 203 65 238 154 78 234 183 71 218 155
Unknown Adults 92 46,969 43,271 77 41,589 32,129 74 41,468 30,581 74 41,650 30,718 74 44,024 32,370 75 46,985 35,434 79 48,921 38,510 81 52,502 42,731
Unknown Juveniles 82 5,260 4,317 79 4,011 3,182 76 4,248 3,211 77 3,983 3,054 76 3,183 2,411 73 2,905 2,129 73 3,084 2,253 74 3,412 2,521

Download table data for ‘Conviction ratio by ethnicity and age group of defendant’ (CSV) Source data for ‘Conviction ratio by ethnicity and age group of defendant’ (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • the conviction ratio (the percentage of defendants convicted out of all those prosecuted) for indictable-only or ‘either way’ offences was higher for adults than for juveniles across all ethnic groups – in 2016, where ethnicity was known, the conviction ratio was 86% for adults and 72% for juveniles, a difference of 14 percentage points

  • since 2013, the conviction ratio has risen for adults across all ethnic grous except the Other ethnic group

  • since 2009, the conviction ratio for White juveniles has fallen by 7 percentage points, from 79% in 2009 to 72% in 2016

  • in 2016, the Asian ethnic group had the highest conviction ratio for juveniles and the lowest for adults, at 73% and 81% respectively

5. Methodology

The analysis uses courts administrative data.

The data includes some defendants who are shown as not having been convicted in the Crown Court but sentenced there. These defendants were prosecuted in the magistrates’ court but sent to the Crown Court for sentencing, and the sentencing hadn’t been completed at the time the source data was collected.

Rounding

Percentages are rounded to whole numbers.

Related publications

Race and the criminal justice system

Quality and methodology information

6. Data sources

Source

Type of data

Administrative data

Type of statistic

National Statistics

Publisher

Ministry of Justice

Publication frequency

Quarterly

Purpose of data source

The data is used by the government to develop, monitor and evaluate criminal justice policy. It reports on activity in the criminal justice system for England and Wales, giving information for the latest year and longer-term trends.

7. Download the data

Convictions - Spreadsheet (csv) 78 KB

This file contains the following: ethnicity, year, sex, age group, value, denominator, numerator