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Trends in sentencing are measured over an 11-year period. The data presented focus on the number of offenders sentenced, what offence type they have committed and the disposal they received. There are further breakdowns of this information by age-band, sex and area.


Criminal Appeal Statistics, Scotland
Department: Scottish Government
Statistics on the number of criminal appeals against conviction and sentence, by type of appeal and outcome.
Digest of Information on the Northern Ireland Criminal Justice System
Department: Justice (Northern Ireland)
The aim of the digest is to present, in a user-friendly way, a comprehensive picture of key developments and key statistics relating to crime and justice in Northern Ireland.
First time entrants to the justice system in Northern Ireland
Department: Justice (Northern Ireland)
This bulletin provides information on the one year proven reoffending rate for a cohort of adults who received a non-custodial disposal at court, a diversionary disposal or were released from custody.
Knife Crime Sentencing
Department: Justice
The publication describes trends in cautioning and sentencing, probation supervision and prison population for possession of a knife or offensive weapon in England and Wales. It provides early indications of trends and is planned as a temporary release to cover the life and impact of the Tackling Knives Action Programme, which was launched to focus resources on rapid, intensive work in 10 areas of England and Wales to tackle knife crime.
Northern Ireland Conviction and Sentencing Statistics
Department: Justice (Northern Ireland)
This publication contains information on offences and disposals for all courts, magistrates' courts and the Crown Court in Northern Ireland.
Reconvictions of Offenders Discharged from Custody or Given Non-Custodial Sentences, Scotland
Department: Scottish Government
Presents reconviction of offenders discharged from custody or given non-custodial sentences in Scotland.
Sentencing Council Crown Court Sentencing Survey bulletin
Department: Justice
The Crown Court Sentencing Survey is an ongoing data collection exercise of sentencing decisions made in the Crown Court. The survey commenced on 1st October 2010 and forms cover: Arson and Criminal Damage; Assault and Public Order; Driving offences; Drug offences; Offences causing death; Robbery / Assault with Intent to Rob; Other Offences; Sexual Offences; Theft, dishonesty, burglary, fraud.
Sentencing Statistics Brief, England and Wales
Department: Justice
Quarterly statistical release on high level trends in court sentencing. Quarterly trends on indictable offences are presented for magistrates' courts and the Crown Court for various sub groups based on gender, age and type of disposal.
Sentencing Statistics, England and Wales
Department: Justice
The annual release presents long-term trends in sentencing in England and Wales. Both indictable and summary offences are addressed. Trends in custody, community sentences, fines and other disposals are presented with separate figures for magistrates' courts and the Crown Court. Gender and age based sub-groupings are presented as well as sentence length breakdowns and criminal histories.
The Northern Ireland Prison Population
Department: Justice (Northern Ireland)
The size and composition of the prison population of Norhern Ireland and compared data with previous years during the last decade.

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The main variable used is the number of offenders (or in some cases people) and the average custodial sentence length. The data are broken down into five chapters:

Chapter 1: National sentencing trends and key criminal justice system statistics

Chapter 2: Custodial sentences 

Chapter 3: Community sentences 

Chapter 4: Fines and other disposals

Chapter 5: Regional trends

Within these chapters, there is a further breakdown by age and sex.

The data are also broken down by offence type and result.

Offence type:

  • violence against the person

  • sexual offences

  • burglary

  • robbery

  • theft and handling stolen goods

  • fraud and forgery

Others are:

  • criminal damage

  • drug offences

  • other (excluding motoring offences)

  • motoring offences

  • offences (excluding motoring offences)

  • motoring offences 


  • immediate custody

  • suspended sentence

  • community sentences

  • fines/other disposals

  • average custodial sentence length (months)

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Technical Data

The complexities of the criminal justice system and the constraints on resources in collating and processing data, necessarily limit the amount of information collected routinely and so only the final outcome of proceedings at magistrates' courts and the Crown Court (where applicable) is recorded.

The statistics of court proceedings are based on returns made by the police to the Ministry of Justice/Home Office Data Collection Group. Although these include offences where there has been no police involvement, such as those prosecutions instigated by government departments and private organisations and individuals, the reporting of these types of offences is known to be incomplete.

The offence breakdown in the tables covers indictable offences and summary offences. The former term includes both indictable only and triable-either-way offences. Offenders are recorded only once for each set of court proceedings resulting in sentencing, against the principal offence involved.
Where sentencing involves more than one offence, the tables record the principal offence. The basis for the selection of the principal offence is as follows:

1. where a defendant is found guilty of one offence and acquitted of another, the offence selected is the one for which the defendant is found guilty

2. where a defendant is found guilty of two or more offences, the offence selected is the one for which the heaviest sentence is imposed

3. where the same disposal is imposed for two or more offences, the offence selected is the one for which the statutory maximum penalty is the most severe

4. changes in the maximum penalties and in whether offences with different maximum penalties are separately coded may affect the selection of the principal offence at stage (3) above

The offence shown in the tables as the one for which the court took its final decision, is not necessarily the same as the offence for which the defendant was initially proceeded against, for example, the court may accept a plea of guilty on a lesser charge.

Unless otherwise stated, the sentence shown is the most severe sentence or order given for the principal offence (that is the principal sentence); secondary sentences given for the principal offence and sentences for non-principal offences are not counted in the tables, with the exception of those on compensation, confiscation and forfeiture where one of the first three disposals may be counted.

A defendant appearing at the Crown Court on the same occasion both for trial and for sentence after summary conviction is counted twice in the tables.

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  • Action Plan Orders

    Action plan orders provide an intensive and individually tailored response to address a child’s or young person’s offending behaviour and the factors associated with it. It requires the offender to comply with a three-month action plan, supervised by a probation officer, a social worker or a member of a youth offending team, designed to prevent reoffending and rehabilitate the offender. 

  • Adult imprisonment

    Imprisonment is the most severe penalty available to the courts, and is only available for more serious offences. Courts have the power to impose a sentence up to a maximum term specified by the Act of Parliament, which created the particular offence. The Criminal Justice Act 2003, Section 225, created a new sentence of imprisonment for public protection (IPP), which is an indeterminate sentence and was implemented on 4 April 2005.

  • Community Order

    The community order was introduced by the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and came into force on 4 April 2005. As part of the reform of sentences, the various kinds of community order previously available for adults have been replaced by this single generic community order with a range of possible requirements. For all offences committed on or after that date, courts are able to choose different elements to make up a bespoke community order, which is relevant to that particular offender and the crime(s) they committed. Technological advances, such as electronic tagging, provide ways to restrict liberty and reduce crime without requiring a prison sentence.

  • Community Punishment and Rehabilitation Orders (Combination Orders prior to 1 April 2001)

    This order was introduced in October 1992 by the Criminal Justice Act 1991 and amended by the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2000. It combines elements of both community rehabilitation and community punishment orders and may be given to any offender aged 16 or over.

  • Community Punishment Orders (Community Service Orders prior to 1 April 2001)

    An offender aged 16 or over who is convicted of an offence for which a court can send an adult to prison may be required to perform unpaid work on behalf of the community. Such orders involve a minimum of 40 hours and a maximum of 240 hours to be completed within 12 months.

  • Community Rehabilitation Orders (Probation Orders prior to 1 April 2001)

    An offender aged 16 or over may be sentenced to a Community Rehabilitation Order for a period ranging from six months to three years. A court may make a Community Rehabilitation Order in the interests of securing the rehabilitation of the offender, protecting the public from harm, or preventing the commission of further offences. Community Rehabilitation Orders require the offender to be supervised by a probation officer.

  • Compensation

    In cases involving death, injury, loss or damage, the courts are required to consider making a compensation order, and to give reasons where no such order is made. A compensation order can also be made in addition to any other sentence or order, or can be the only sentence imposed for a particular offence. A magistrates’ court can order compensation up to a maximum of £5,000 per offence, but there is no such limit in the Crown Court. 

  • Curfew Orders

    Curfew orders require an offender to remain, for specific periods, at a specific address. 

  • Custodial penalties for young offenders

    For young offenders aged 18 to 20, the minimum is 21 days and the maximum is the same as the adult maximum for the offence. Juveniles aged 14 to 17 convicted at the Crown Court may be sentenced to be detained for up to the adult maximum, including life. This also applies to offenders aged 10 to 13 convicted of murder or manslaughter.

  • Discharges

    A court may discharge a person either absolutely or conditionally where the court takes the view that it is not necessary to impose punishment. An absolute discharge requires nothing from the offender and imposes no restrictions on future conduct. The majority of discharges are conditional discharges where the offender remains liable to punishment for the offence if he is convicted of a further offence within whatever period the court specifies (but not more than three years).

  • Drug treatment and testing Orders

    Drug treatment and testing orders are aimed at those aged 16 or over who are convicted of crimes committed to fund their drug habit and who show a willingness to co-operate with treatment and subsequent testing. The orders last between six months and three years.

  • Fines

    A court may fine an offender for any offence (except murder or treason), although a court may not normally impose a fine for a more serious offence except in conjunction with another penalty. The fine is the most commonly used disposal for offences dealt with by magistrates’ courts. The maximum fine that can be imposed by a magistrates’ court varies with the seriousness of the offence. The maximum fines for summary offences are set by reference to a standard scale - £200 for a level 1 offence, £500 for a level 2 offence, £1,000 for a level 3 offence, £2,500 for a level 4 offence and £5,000 for a level 5 offence.

  • Further sentences and orders

    Other punishments are used to a lesser extent. These include binding over orders (either to keep the peace or be of good behaviour), attendance centre orders, confiscation orders, exclusion orders and disqualification from driving. Under attendance centre orders, offenders under 21 may be ordered to take part for a set number of hours in a structured programme of activities on Saturdays. The courts have general power to penalise a defendant by making an order for the forfeiture of property associated with the offence.

  • Life imprisonment

    Life imprisonment, or its equivalent, must be imposed on all persons aged ten and over convicted of murder. It is also available for a number of the most serious crimes, including manslaughter, robbery, rape, assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, aggravated burglary and certain firearms offences. 

  • Referral Orders

    The Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 created a new sentence, referral to a youth offender panel, for first-time young offenders not given a discharge or custodial sentence. Referral orders are now the main intervention for young offenders who plead guilty on their first court appearance.

  • Reparation Orders

    Reparation orders requiring a young offender to make reparation to the victim of the offence (where they wish to receive this) or to the community at large. 

  • Sentencing

    Under a statutory framework for sentencing introduced in the Criminal Justice Act 1991 (as amended by the Criminal Justice Act 1993), courts are generally required to impose sentences that reflect the seriousness of the offence or offences committed by the offender. The Act does not define seriousness. The Court of Appeal has provided guidance on interpretation since the Act came into effect in October 1992. The Criminal Justice Act 2003 introduced a new sentencing framework but the principle that the seriousness of the offence determines the sentence given, remains the same. In deciding what sentence to impose, the judge or magistrate will take account of the facts of the offence, which have been presented in court, including any aggravating or mitigating factors, the circumstances of the offender and any pleas in mitigation.

  • Supervision Order

    For a young person aged 17 or under, an equivalent supervision order may be made for periods up to three years. The supervisor for such orders may be either a probation officer, the local authority (in the person of a local authority social worker) or a member of a youth offending team. 

  • Suspended sentence

    A new suspended sentence order, introduced by the Criminal Justice Act 2003 came into force on 4 April 2005 and replaced the previous fully suspended sentence. It applies to people aged 18 and over and is a sentence of custody of under 12 months, suspended for a period ranging from six months to two years and applies only to offences committed on or after that date. During the suspension period the court can set community requirements from the same options as are available for the community order; unpaid work, activity requirement, programme requirement, prohibited activity requirement, curfew requirement, exclusion requirement, supervision requirement, and attendance centre requirement (if the offender is aged under 25).

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Contact Details

For statistical enquiries about this topic, please contact:

Offender Management & Sentencing Analytical Services

Email: paul.cowell@justice.gsi.gov.uk

Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7035 4216

2nd Floor Fry Building 2 Marsham Street London SW1P 4DF

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