Prosecutions and convictions

The main facts and figures show that:

  • 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 2017, the conviction ratios for Black and Mixed ethnic groups were lowest at 78.7% and 79%

  • in 2017, the conviction ratio was highest for defendants in the White ethnic group, at 85.3%

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 3 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).

Ethnic groups and how data on ethnicity is collected

Conviction ratio by ethnicity of defendant over time

Number of prosecutions and convictions, and conviction ratio, by ethnicity of defendant over time

Asian Black Mixed White Other inc Chinese
Year % Prosecutions at MC Convictions and MC and CC % Prosecutions at MC Convictions and MC and CC % Prosecutions at MC Convictions and MC and CC % Prosecutions at MC Convictions and MC and CC % Prosecutions at MC Convictions and MC and CC
2009 71.8 19,171 13,759 72.7 32,453 23,581 71.1 11,592 8,237 78.7 294,080 231,485 74.0 5,134 3,799
2010 76.4 20,557 15,714 76.0 34,725 26,403 75.3 12,817 9,645 81.3 317,998 258,471 81.9 5,235 4,288
2011 78.1 20,164 15,750 78.6 33,826 26,571 77.4 12,581 9,742 82.8 305,672 253,220 81.1 4,896 3,969
2012 78.3 17,745 13,895 79.1 29,153 23,050 78.4 10,839 8,497 84.0 268,301 225,426 82.8 4,193 3,470
2013 73.4 18,005 13,215 76.1 28,728 21,858 75.7 10,542 7,979 81.5 260,857 212,567 82.0 4,156 3,407
2014 74.3 16,736 12,437 76.7 27,045 20,755 75.8 9,630 7,299 81.6 247,209 201,618 79.8 3,627 2,895
2015 77.6 15,418 11,967 79.6 24,993 19,893 77.4 9,196 7,121 84.3 217,166 183,068 84.4 3,395 2,867
2016 80.5 14,712 11,842 80.6 24,997 20,145 81.2 7,613 6,182 86.0 185,340 159,398 81.3 3,076 2,501
2017 80.3 13,244 10,635 78.7 23,374 18,384 79.0 6,831 5,398 85.3 165,037 140,701 81.1 2,751 2,230

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Summary

This data shows that:

  • from 2009 to 2017, the conviction ratio (the percentage of defendants convicted out of all those prosecuted) increased for all ethnic groups, from 79.8% in 2009 to 83.7% in 2017

  • however, the total number of prosecutions and convictions where ethnicity was known has decreased over the same period – prosecutions fell from 362,000 in 2009 to 211,000 in 2017 (around 42% fewer), while convictions fell from 281,000 in 2009 to 177,000 in 2017 (around 37% fewer)

  • in 2017, White offenders had the highest conviction ratio, at 85.3%

  • in 2017, the conviction ratio for offenders from the Other (including Chinese) group was 81.1% - for Asian offenders it was 80.3% in 2017 and the conviction ratios for the Black and Mixed ethnic groups were 78.8% and 79% respectively

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 2017
Ethnicity % Prosecutions at MC Convictions at MC and CC % Prosecutions at MC Convictions at MC and CC % Prosecutions at MC Convictions at MC and CC % Prosecutions at MC Convictions at MC and CC % Prosecutions at MC Convictions at MC and CC % Prosecutions at MC Convictions at MC and CC % Prosecutions at MC Convictions at MC and CC % Prosecutions at MC Convictions at MC and CC % Prosecutions at MC Convictions at MC and CC
Asian Female 71.6 1,174 840 72.6 1,301 945 71.5 1,268 906 74.7 1,016 759 68.3 1,065 727 70.6 943 666 70.5 932 657 72.9 870 634 73.8 686 506
Asian Male 71.8 17,964 12,905 76.8 19,221 14,755 78.6 18,861 14,825 78.6 16,672 13,112 73.9 16,838 12,451 74.7 15,718 11,740 78.3 14,389 11,273 81.3 13,750 11,173 81.0 12,442 10,073
Black Female 76.0 3,888 2,953 74.4 4,201 3,127 80.4 3,470 2,790 79.6 2,817 2,242 74.6 2,633 1,965 74.1 2,650 1,963 78.7 2,380 1,873 76.9 2,205 1,695 74.0 1,938 1,434
Black Male 72.3 28,463 20,577 76.3 30,438 23,236 78.4 30,294 23,745 79.1 26,263 20,768 76.4 26,003 19,855 77.1 24,313 18,748 79.8 22,502 17,961 81.1 22,667 18,372 79.2 21,308 16,875
Mixed Female 70.3 1,738 1,221 75.0 1,856 1,392 75.7 1,795 1,359 77.0 1,364 1,050 75.0 1,294 970 75.5 1,349 1,019 78.4 1,237 970 77.5 967 749 77.8 886 689
Mixed Male 71.2 9,832 7,001 75.3 10,942 8,242 77.8 10,771 8,376 78.6 9,450 7,431 75.8 9,231 7,001 76.0 8,240 6,264 77.4 7,930 6,136 81.9 6,613 5,413 79.3 5,912 4,689
Other inc Chinese Female 77.4 729 564 77.9 773 602 82.2 636 523 85.6 499 427 82.7 519 429 84.0 443 372 89.9 398 358 75.7 371 281 80.8 312 252
Other inc Chinese Male 73.5 4,387 3,225 82.7 4,453 3,682 81.0 4,247 3,438 82.6 3,675 3,034 82.0 3,620 2,969 79.3 3,175 2,518 83.9 2,978 2,499 82.2 2,691 2,211 81.3 2,429 1,974
White Female 79.6 43,722 34,801 80.5 46,948 37,805 82.0 44,076 36,133 83.6 38,350 32,064 80.6 37,685 30,367 81.1 37,325 30,288 83.9 32,796 27,517 85.0 28,083 23,879 84.6 24,959 21,113
White Male 78.6 249,942 196,446 81.4 270,756 220,505 83.0 261,272 216,877 84.1 229,514 193,103 81.7 222,618 181,883 81.7 209,231 170,946 84.5 183,811 155,231 86.2 156,719 135,170 85.5 139,509 119,232

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Summary

This data shows that:

  • from 2009 to 2017, 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 2017, 84% of male defendants and 83% of female defendants were convicted

  • in 2017, the White ethnic group had the highest conviction ratio for both male and female defendants, at 84.6% and 85.5% respectively

  • in 2017, the Black and Mixed ethnic groups had the lowest conviction ratios for male defendants ( at 79.2% and 79.3%), and the Black and Asian ethnic group had the lowest for female defendants (at 74% and 73.8% respectively)

  • there was more variation between ethnic groups in the conviction ratio for female offenders than for male offenders in 2017 – it ranged from 73.8% to 84.6% for female offenders, and from 79.2% to 85.5% for male offenders

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 2017
Ethnicity % Prosecutions at MC Convictions at MC and CC % Prosecutions at MC Convictions at MC and CC % Prosecutions at MC Convictions at MC and CC % Prosecutions at MC Convictions at MC and CC % Prosecutions at MC Convictions at MC and CC % Prosecutions at MC Convictions at MC and CC % Prosecutions at MC Convictions at MC and CC % Prosecutions at MC Convictions at MC and CC % Prosecutions at MC Convictions at MC and CC
Asian Adults 72.8 14,181 10,322 77.1 15,412 11,882 79.2 14,942 11,841 78.8 13,547 10,670 74.4 14,311 10,648 75.0 13,561 10,167 78.1 12,639 9,877 81.3 12,017 9,769 81.2 10,791 8,767
AsianJuveniles 70.4 2,315 1,629 71.4 2,392 1,709 73.1 2,302 1,683 75.0 1,829 1,371 69.6 1,555 1,082 70.1 1,166 817 72.8 1,071 780 73.4 1,001 735 68.8 866 596
Asian Young adults 67.6 2,675 1,808 77.1 2,753 2,123 76.2 2,920 2,226 78.3 2,369 1,854 69.4 2,139 1,485 72.3 2,009 1,453 76.7 1,708 1,310 79.0 1,694 1,338 80.2 1,587 1,272
Black Adults 73.8 22,277 16,444 78.3 23,396 18,318 81.1 22,752 18,453 80.6 20,542 16,564 77.5 21,144 16,382 77.9 20,223 15,755 81.3 18,523 15,054 82.0 18,464 15,133 80.1 17,046 13,648
BlackJuveniles 71.1 5,399 3,839 68.9 6,126 4,220 71.0 6,082 4,319 72.3 4,567 3,304 70.2 3,693 2,591 69.3 3,029 2,099 70.3 2,842 1,999 69.2 2,894 2,003 69.5 2,769 1,924
Black Young adults 69.0 4,777 3,298 74.3 5,203 3,865 76.1 4,992 3,799 78.7 4,044 3,182 74.1 3,891 2,885 76.5 3,793 2,901 78.3 3,628 2,840 82.7 3,639 3,009 79.0 3,559 2,812
Mixed Adults 71.8 6,522 4,686 77.6 7,434 5,768 79.0 7,587 5,994 81.1 6,900 5,594 78.4 7,147 5,601 78.2 6,668 5,212 79.6 6,555 5,221 83.8 5,468 4,584 81.2 4,887 3,967
MixedJuveniles 71.9 2,767 1,990 71.7 2,817 2,019 73.9 2,766 2,043 72.0 2,082 1,499 68.2 1,643 1,120 68.6 1,426 978 68.3 1,311 895 71.3 991 707 69.1 858 593
Mixed Young adults 67.8 2,303 1,561 72.4 2,566 1,858 76.5 2,228 1,705 75.6 1,857 1,404 71.8 1,752 1,258 72.2 1,536 1,109 75.6 1,330 1,005 77.2 1,154 891 77.2 1,086 838
Other inc Chinese Adults 74.7 4,136 3,090 83.3 4,232 3,527 82.2 3,915 3,217 83.1 3,359 2,792 83.3 3,444 2,869 81.1 3,006 2,437 84.9 2,783 2,363 81.6 2,509 2,048 82.2 2,233 1,836
Other inc ChineseJuveniles 69.6 447 311 72.5 418 303 71.5 452 323 75.9 382 290 70.7 287 203 64.7 238 154 78.2 234 183 71.1 218 155 67.3 217 146
Other inc Chinese Young adults 72.2 551 398 78.3 585 458 81.1 529 429 85.8 452 388 78.8 425 335 79.4 383 304 84.9 378 321 85.4 349 298 82.4 301 248
White Adults 79.2 210,862 167,086 82.2 235,124 193,323 83.9 233,537 195,844 85.1 213,239 181,565 82.9 215,108 178,233 82.7 207,892 171,845 85.4 185,298 158,325 87.2 159,969 139,479 86.2 143,830 124,000
WhiteJuveniles 78.7 40,529 31,905 77.4 38,868 30,082 77.7 32,600 25,332 76.8 24,200 18,575 73.6 18,575 13,674 71.7 15,867 11,378 72.1 12,995 9,373 72.3 10,209 7,378 72.1 8,734 6,298
White Young adults 76.1 42,689 32,494 79.7 44,006 35,066 81.1 39,535 32,044 81.9 30,862 25,286 76.0 27,174 20,660 78.4 23,450 18,395 81.4 18,873 15,370 82.7 15,162 12,541 83.4 12,473 10,403

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Summary

  • 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 2017, where ethnicity was known, the conviction ratio was 84% for adults and 71% for juveniles, a difference of 13 percentage points

  • since 2009, the conviction ratio for White juveniles has fallen by 7 percentage points, from 78.7% in 2009 to 72.1% in 2017, however White juveniles had the highest conviction ratio out of all other ethnic groups in 2017

  • the conviction ratio for the White ethnic group was highest in all age groups in 2017

  • in 2017, the Black ethnic group had the lowest conviction ratio for adults at 80.1%, the Other (including Chinese group) was lowest for juveniles (67.3%) and the Mixed group was lowest for young adults (77.2%)

Conviction ratio by ethnicity of defendant and offence

Conviction ratio and number of convictions by ethnicity and offence group

Asian Black Mixed White Other inc Chinese
Offence Group % Convictions % Convictions % Convictions % Convictions % Convictions
Criminal damage and arson 49.6 63 62.5 80 62.7 32 76.1 1,407 68.2 15
Drug offences 90.1 2,988 87.7 6,245 86.8 1,453 93.0 19,828 85.5 464
Fraud Offences 86.2 393 85.8 574 92.4 110 90.8 3,505 86.7 98
Miscellaneous crimes against society 81.2 1,475 75.0 1,763 73.5 533 77.9 15,853 87.7 327
Possession of weapons 83.7 748 80.5 2,022 80.0 479 82.5 7,273 78.2 147
Public order offences 94.7 757 87.9 1,245 92.4 318 97.4 11,269 87.3 124
Robbery 65.0 230 59.8 586 57.3 185 72.4 2,228 72.9 43
Sexual offences 52.2 436 52.5 442 54.9 95 64.8 4,455 60.9 112
Theft Offences 87.2 2,156 82.0 3,626 84.9 1,513 89.3 55,577 86.8 659
Violence against the person 63.9 1,389 61.4 1,801 65.3 680 76.9 19,306 65.5 241

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Summary

This data shows that:

  • in 2017, 93% of White defendants prosecuted for drug offences were convicted, compared with 86.6% of defendants from the Mixed ethnic group and 85.5% of those from the Other (including Chinese) group. Ratios for the Other (including Chinese) group are based on small numbers so should be treated with caution

  • in the same year, 83.7% of Asian defendants prosecuted for possession of weapons offences were convicted, compared with 80% of defendants from the Mixed ethnic group and 78.2% of those from the Other (including Chinese) group. Ratios for the Other (including Chinese) group are based on small numbers so should be treated with caution

Methodology

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 1 decimal place.

Related publications

Race and the criminal justice system

Quality and methodology information

Further technical information

Further data and ethnicity breakdowns are available using the annual (year ending December) Criminal Justice Statistics pivot tables.

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.

Download the data

Prosecutions and convictions - Spreadsheet (csv) 391 KB

This file contains the following: ethnicity, year, sex, age group, offence group, police force area, value, numerator, denominator