Sentences and custody

The main facts and figures show that:

  • from 2009 to 2017, the percentage of offenders given an immediate custodial sentence in court increased for offenders from White, Black, Asian and Mixed ethnicities

  • from 2009 to 2017, a lower percentage of offenders with Mixed ethnicity were given an immediate custodial sentence than Asian offenders

  • among juveniles sentenced in 2017, the Black ethnic group had the highest percentage of offenders sent to a young offenders institution

  • out of all female offenders sentenced in 2017, those from the Other (including Chinese) ethnic group had the highest percentage given an immediate custodial sentence

Things you need to know

Where an offender was found guilty of more than one offence, the data refers to the offence for which the offender was given the heaviest penalty. If they were given the same penalty for 2 or more offences, the data uses the offence with the heaviest statutory maximum penalty. Where more than 1 sentence is given for an offence, the most serious sentence is included in the data.

Ethnicity wasn’t known for around 1 in 5 offenders. This analysis only includes offenders for whom the ethnicity was known.

The size of the Other (including Chinese) ethnic group is small, so care must be taken when interpreting results this group.

What the data measures

The data measures the percentage of offenders sentenced to immediate custody in court, as a percentage of all offenders sentenced for ‘indictable’ offences. We refer to this in places as the ‘custody rate’. The data is broken down by ethnicity, age and gender.

There are 3 broad types of offence:

  • indictable-only offences, such as murder, rape or robbery, 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, are heard in a magistrates’ court

This data includes sentences for indictable-only offences and offences that are triable either way. We use the term ‘indictable offence’ in this commentary to cover both types of offence.

Offenders are classified by age group:

  • juveniles are under 18 years old
  • young adults are between 18 and 20 years old
  • adults are 21 years old and over

The data focuses mainly on offenders given an immediate custodial sentence. It also includes information on other sentences including:

  • suspended sentence orders
  • community sentences
  • fines
  • absolute or conditional discharges
  • compensation orders

An extra category of sentence, ‘Otherwise dealt with’, includes offenders given less common sentences that don’t fit into these groups, such as spending one day in police cells or being given a guardianship order.

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

Sentences for indictable offences by ethnicity of offender

Number and percentage of offenders sentenced for indictable offences by ethnicity

Ethnicity % sentenced Number sentenced
Asian 6.0 10,513
Black 10.4 18,142
Mixed 3.0 5,270
White 79.3 138,834
Other inc Chinese 1.3 2,220

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • in 2017, 79.3% of all offenders sentenced for indictable offences were White, not including offenders for whom ethnicity was not known
  • Black offenders accounted for 10.4% of all offenders sentenced for indictable offences, Asian offenders 6.0%, offenders with Mixed ethnicity 3.0%, and Other (including Chinese) offenders 1.3%

Custody rate by ethnicity over time

Custody rate by ethnicity over time

Asian Black Mixed White Other inc Chinese
Year Custody Rate Number sentenced to custody All sentenced Custody Rate Number sentenced to custody All sentenced Custody Rate Number sentenced to custody All sentenced Custody Rate Number sentenced to custody All sentenced Custody Rate Number sentenced to custody All sentenced
2009 29.0 3,946 13,615 29.1 6,800 23,362 23.2 1,869 8,055 22.2 50,933 229,047 40.0 1,506 3,769
2010 29.4 4,609 15,658 28.4 7,436 26,224 23.0 2,191 9,516 22.9 58,836 256,731 39.0 1,671 4,290
2011 31.1 4,892 15,713 30.4 8,034 26,466 26.6 2,563 9,649 24.9 63,032 252,664 38.3 1,518 3,968
2012 32.1 4,438 13,846 31.3 7,184 22,986 27.6 2,321 8,416 25.6 57,254 223,867 39.7 1,388 3,496
2013 31.0 4,066 13,118 29.4 6,383 21,698 27.9 2,198 7,869 26.3 55,470 210,712 37.6 1,291 3,429
2014 31.9 3,945 12,368 29.8 6,146 20,618 27.8 2,006 7,205 27.1 54,246 199,898 36.0 1,042 2,891
2015 33.5 3,982 11,875 30.7 6,027 19,662 28.4 1,990 7,012 28.5 51,738 181,268 35.3 1,017 2,883
2016 34.6 4,038 11,682 31.3 6,223 19,858 31.6 1,917 6,074 31.0 48,897 157,550 33.4 827 2,479
2017 35.7 3,758 10,513 33.1 6,001 18,142 32.3 1,704 5,270 32.8 45,505 138,834 35.0 776 2,220

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

The ‘custody rate’ is the percentage of offenders given an immediate custodial sentence, out of all offenders being sentenced in court for indictable offences.

This data shows that:

  • from 2009 to 2017, the custody rate steadily increased across all ethnic groups except for the Other (including Chinese) group
  • in the same period, the overall custody rate for indictable offences went up from 23% to 33%
  • in the same period, the custody rate for indictable offences went up for White offenders (by 10.6 percentage points), Black offenders (by 4 percentage points), Asian offenders (by 6.7 percentage points) and offenders of Mixed ethnicity (by 9.1 percentage points), while it went down by 5 percentage points for offenders from the Other (including Chinese) group
  • Asian offenders had the highest custody rate in 2017, at 35.7%; White and Black offenders had similar custody rates (at 32.8% and 33.1% respectively), the Other (including Chinese) group had a custody rate of 35.0%, and the Mixed group had the lowest custody rate in 2017, at 32.3%

Custody rate by ethnicity and age group

Custody rate by ethnicity and age group over time

Asian Adults Asian Juveniles Asian Young adults Black Adults Black Juveniles Black Young adults Mixed Adults Mixed Juveniles Mixed Young adults Not stated Adults Not stated Juveniles Not stated Young adults Other inc Chinese Adults Other inc Chinese Juveniles Other inc Chinese Young adults White Adults White Juveniles White Young adults
Year Value Immediate Custody all sentenced Value Immediate Custody all sentenced Value Immediate Custody all sentenced Value Immediate Custody all sentenced Value Immediate Custody all sentenced Value Immediate Custody all sentenced Value Immediate Custody all sentenced Value Immediate Custody all sentenced Value Immediate Custody all sentenced Value Immediate Custody all sentenced Value Immediate Custody all sentenced Value Immediate Custody all sentenced Value Immediate Custody all sentenced Value Immediate Custody all sentenced Value Immediate Custody all sentenced Value Immediate Custody all sentenced Value Immediate Custody all sentenced Value Immediate Custody all sentenced
2009 32.5 3,316 10,202 10.9 177 1,629 25.4 453 1,784 33.4 5,446 16,283 11.4 437 3,835 28.3 917 3,244 28.1 1,277 4,543 10.9 218 1,991 24.6 374 1,521 32.2 12,474 38,730 15.5 669 4,319 36.3 2,068 5,693 44.3 1,356 3,060 14.1 44 311 26.6 106 398 24.9 41,145 165,209 8.6 2,733 31,900 22.1 7,055 31,938
2010 32.2 3,809 11,834 12.6 215 1,708 27.6 585 2,116 32.4 5,880 18,171 11.7 493 4,219 27.7 1,063 3,834 27.3 1,549 5,674 10.1 203 2,016 24.0 439 1,826 24.2 6,875 28,458 11.9 379 3,184 28.0 942 3,359 42.3 1,491 3,527 11.5 35 305 31.7 145 458 25.5 49,016 192,017 7.9 2,378 30,065 21.5 7,442 34,649
2011 34.1 4,036 11,831 13.7 230 1,678 28.4 626 2,204 33.9 6,237 18,410 13.9 601 4,316 32.0 1,196 3,740 31.1 1,846 5,938 10.5 214 2,032 30.0 503 1,679 23.4 6,422 27,425 12.0 386 3,209 24.4 660 2,700 41.0 1,313 3,206 13.8 45 326 36.7 160 436 27.4 53,569 195,524 9.0 2,273 25,324 22.6 7,190 31,816
2012 35.1 3,743 10,652 11.2 153 1,366 29.6 542 1,828 34.5 5,704 16,528 14.2 467 3,297 32.0 1,013 3,161 32.0 1,774 5,552 10.7 160 1,489 28.1 387 1,375 26.7 7,329 27,482 11.6 354 3,056 26.9 791 2,940 42.7 1,207 2,825 14.2 41 289 36.6 140 382 27.8 50,219 180,409 8.3 1,534 18,557 22.1 5,501 24,901
2013 33.4 3,534 10,591 11.1 119 1,075 28.4 413 1,452 32.2 5,242 16,287 12.5 324 2,582 28.9 817 2,829 31.5 1,736 5,510 11.2 125 1,113 27.0 337 1,246 25.7 7,570 29,420 12.8 308 2,409 25.5 674 2,645 40.8 1,180 2,889 10.3 21 203 26.7 90 337 28.1 49,757 176,838 8.7 1,191 13,663 22.4 4,522 20,211
2014 34.4 3,476 10,115 10.9 90 822 26.5 379 1,431 32.6 5,101 15,652 11.4 240 2,102 28.1 805 2,864 31.4 1,615 5,142 10.4 102 979 26.7 289 1,084 23.0 7,483 32,522 10.2 219 2,140 25.5 686 2,688 38.2 930 2,435 9.9 15 151 31.8 97 305 28.7 48,975 170,379 8.4 953 11,374 23.8 4,318 18,145
2015 35.8 3,508 9,802 15.2 118 775 27.4 356 1,298 33.3 4,955 14,889 12.9 256 1,985 29.3 816 2,788 32.0 1,648 5,147 9.8 86 882 26.0 256 983 24.3 8,646 35,515 10.1 227 2,250 26.6 735 2,762 37.3 892 2,390 15.0 27 180 31.3 98 313 30.2 47,303 156,804 9.1 854 9,357 23.7 3,581 15,107
2016 37.2 3,586 9,641 13.1 96 735 27.3 356 1,306 34.4 5,134 14,938 11.9 237 1,992 29.1 852 2,928 35.0 1,572 4,492 10.2 72 703 31.1 273 879 27.7 10,856 39,143 10.9 276 2,522 28.4 910 3,202 35.6 723 2,031 11.1 17 153 29.5 87 295 32.7 45,061 137,908 9.2 674 7,347 25.7 3,162 12,295
2017 38.1 3,307 8,683 10.3 61 593 31.5 390 1,237 36.1 4,863 13,460 13.7 263 1,917 31.6 875 2,765 35.6 1,384 3,885 11.4 67 586 31.7 253 799 28.8 12,064 41,839 11.1 375 3,369 28.4 999 3,512 37.6 685 1,821 8.2 12 146 31.2 79 253 34.5 42,171 122,374 9.9 621 6,291 26.7 2,713 10,169

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

The ‘custody rate’ is the percentage of offenders given an immediate custodial sentence, out of all offenders being sentenced in court for indictable offences.

This data shows that:

  • out of all age and ethnic group combinations, Asian adult offenders, and those from the Other (including Chinese) group, had the highest custody rate for indictable offences (at 38.1% and 37.6% respectively)

  • among juveniles, Black offenders had the highest custody rate, at 13.7%, compared with 9.9% for White and 10.3% for Asian juvenile offenders

  • White offenders had the lowest custody rates among young adults (18 to 20 years) and adult offenders (21 years and over), and offenders from the Other (including Chinese) ethnic group had the lowest custody rate among juveniles, although this finding is based on a small number of offenders

Custody rate by ethnicity and gender

Custody rate by ethnicity and gender over time.

Asian Female Asian Male Black Female Black Male Mixed Female Mixed Male Other inc Chinese Female Other inc Chinese Male White Female White Male
Year Custody rate (%) Immediate custodial sentence Custody rate (%) Immediate custodial sentence Custody rate (%) Immediate custodial sentence Custody rate (%) Immediate custodial sentence Custody rate (%) Immediate custodial sentence Custody rate (%) Immediate custodial sentence Custody rate (%) Immediate custodial sentence Custody rate (%) Immediate custodial sentence Custody rate (%) Immediate custodial sentence Custody rate (%) Immediate custodial sentence
2009 18.4 155 29.7 3,788 21.7 638 30.2 6,155 14.0 169 24.8 1,699 29.9 168 41.8 1,336 13.0 4,488 23.9 46,408
2010 17.4 164 30.2 4,443 20.6 640 29.4 6,792 15.8 219 24.3 1,972 26.0 158 41.1 1,512 13.3 5,030 24.6 53,795
2011 18.9 171 31.9 4,718 22.4 624 31.3 7,408 17.5 235 28.0 2,327 26.1 134 40.1 1,384 14.6 5,275 26.7 57,733
2012 18.8 142 32.9 4,296 21.9 491 32.3 6,686 20.7 217 28.6 2,103 27.2 120 41.5 1,265 15.1 4,831 27.3 52,395
2013 15.7 114 31.9 3,947 20.4 397 30.3 5,981 17.5 167 29.4 2,030 23.4 101 39.8 1,189 15.3 4,603 28.2 50,828
2014 18.4 122 32.7 3,818 19.7 386 30.9 5,755 16.5 166 29.7 1,837 24.7 94 37.7 946 16.6 4,979 29.0 49,211
2015 16.3 106 34.6 3,870 19.1 355 31.9 5,668 19.4 188 29.8 1,799 20.0 74 37.5 940 17.5 4,776 30.5 46,919
2016 19.9 126 35.5 3,910 21.0 354 32.3 5,853 20.4 150 33.1 1,762 20.9 58 35.0 769 19.0 4,511 33.2 44,323
2017 20.9 106 36.6 3,644 20.5 290 34.2 5,702 23.4 159 33.7 1,541 24.5 62 36.4 714 21.3 4,451 34.9 40,998

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

The ‘custody rate’ is the percentage of offenders given an immediate custodial sentence, out of all offenders being sentenced in court for serious indictable offences.

This data shows that:

  • in all ethnic groups, female offenders had a lower custody rate for indictable offences than male offenders of the same ethnicity
  • the custody rate was highest in 2017 for Asian male offenders (at 36.6%), and lowest for Black female offenders (at 20.5%)
  • in 2017, the custody rate among male offenders was lowest for those from the Mixed and Black ethnic groups (at 33.7% and 34.2% respectively), while the custody rate for female offenders was lowest for those from the Black and Asian ethnic groups (at 20.5% and 20.9% respectively)
  • the custody rate for female offenders from the Mixed group changed the most over the period studied, from 14.0% in 2009 to 23.4% in 2017

Type of sentence by ethnicity of offender

Number and percentage of sentences by ethnicity of offender and type of sentence

All Asian Black Mixed White Other inc Chinese
Outcome % Number sentenced % Number sentenced % Number sentenced % Number sentenced % Number sentenced % Number sentenced
Immediate custody 33.0 57,744 35.7 3,758 33.1 6,001 32.3 1,704 32.8 45,505 35.0 776
Suspended sentence 17.0 29,711 17.4 1,830 15.1 2,744 15.7 829 17.3 23,966 15.4 342
Community sentence 19.9 34,742 18.5 1,940 19.7 3,565 22.1 1,165 19.9 27,640 19.5 432
Fine 16.5 28,923 18.3 1,923 20.6 3,734 18.2 959 15.8 21,926 17.2 381
Absolute discharge 0.4 636 0.3 27 0.3 51 0.2 11 0.4 540 0.3 7
Conditional discharge 9.3 16,200 6.8 720 7.9 1,435 7.9 415 9.7 13,439 8.6 191
Compensation 0.8 1,450 0.2 22 0.3 52 0.5 27 1.0 1,334 0.7 15
Otherwise dealt with 3.2 5,573 2.8 293 3.1 560 3.0 160 3.2 4,484 3.4 76

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • in 2017, 175,000 offenders whose ethnicity was known were sentenced in court for indictable offences – of those, 33% were given an immediate custodial sentence, 19.9% were given a community sentence, 16.5% were fined and 17% received a suspended sentence order
  • the most common sentence for indictable offences for all ethnic groups was immediate custody
  • out of all ethnic groups, the Asian group had the highest percentage of offenders given an immediate custodial sentence (at 35.7%), the Black group had the highest percentage given a fine (20.6%), and the White group had the highest percentage given a conditional discharge (9.7%)

Custodial sentences by ethnicity of offender and type of offence

Number and percentage of custodial sentences by type of offence and ethnicity of offender

Asian Black Mixed White Other inc Chinese
Offence Group % Custodial sentence All sentenced % Custodial sentence All sentenced % Custodial sentence All sentenced % Custodial sentence All sentenced % Custodial sentence All sentenced
Criminal damage and arson 42.4 25 59 30.3 23 76 34.5 10 29 33.4 454 1,361 13.3 2 15
Drug offences 27.1 790 2,913 22.9 1,393 6,084 21.6 304 1,407 20.5 3,957 19,336 27.1 123 454
Fraud Offences 41.4 163 394 32.3 184 570 27.9 29 104 28.9 988 3,422 34.3 34 99
Miscellaneous crimes against society 39.3 582 1,480 34.9 615 1,761 35.4 186 526 30.4 4,770 15,700 43.4 144 332
Possession of weapons 35.3 262 743 37.9 776 2,050 31.6 149 471 34.4 2,498 7,270 36.0 54 150
Public order offences 28.0 211 753 27.5 336 1,222 27.7 86 311 30.3 3,388 11,192 29.1 37 127
Robbery 63.9 147 230 54.5 321 589 59.1 110 186 79.1 1,760 2,225 58.1 25 43
Sexual offences 53.6 232 433 60.2 263 437 56.4 53 94 60.9 2,686 4,410 55.1 59 107
Theft Offences 33.5 717 2,143 33.0 1,179 3,576 31.9 475 1,490 31.2 17,169 54,948 29.7 195 657
Violence against the person 46.1 629 1,365 51.3 911 1,777 46.3 302 652 41.3 7,835 18,970 43.6 103 236

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

The data shows that:

  • in 2017, the lowest custody rates were for offenders from the Other (including Chinese) group convicted of criminal damage and arson (13.3%), and for White offenders convicted of drug offences (20.5%)
  • the highest custody rates were for White offenders convicted of robbery (79.1%), followed by Asian offenders convicted of robbery (63.9%)
  • for criminal damage and arson, drug offences, fraud offences and theft offences, offenders from the Asian ethnic group had the highest custody rates, at 42.4%, 27.1%, 41.4%, and 33.5% respectively
  • Black offenders had the highest custody rates for possession of weapons (37.9%) and violence against the person (51.3%)
  • White offenders had the highest custody rate for public order offences (30.3%), robbery (79.1%) and sexual offences (60.9%)

Methodology

Methodology

The analysis uses administrative data from courts.

Rounding

Percentages for custody rates 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

Custody rate - Spreadsheet (csv) 75 KB

This file contains the following: ethnicity, year, gender, age group,value, number

Sentences (2017 data) - Spreadsheet (csv) 36 KB

This file contains the following: ethnicity, type of offence, type of sentence,numerator, denominator, value