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Criminal justice system in the UK- Statistics & Facts

The criminal justice system of the United Kingdom is the collective body responsible for administrating justice in the UK, and consists of various institutions such as the police, the crown prosecution service, and the UK's prison system. Like almost every governmental department in the UK, the Ministry of Justice has been forced to contend with fewer resources during the 2010s, and saw its budget fall from 9.1 billion British pounds in 2009/10 to 7.35 billion British pounds in 2015/16. In the years since 2015/16, the budget of the Ministry of Justice has gradually increased, with the budget for 2020/21 reaching 9.15 billion British pounds. The reduction in police officers after 2010 is one of the most well-known consequences of the cuts, but other important aspects of the justice system, such as criminal legal aid funding, were also dramatically reduced.

A system under pressure

During the last decade, as budgets fell across all governmental departments, crime in the United Kingdom increased, putting an extra burden on the criminal justice system. Sexual offences in particular grew significantly, from 53,599 in 2012/13, to over 164,288 by 2018/19. While this is partly due to the emergence of historical allegations of sexual abuse, there has also been a cultural shift in the way such crimes are handled by the justice system, with previous sexual offence figures likely only showing a fraction of actual crimes. These types of crimes are among the most serious and carry the highest average prison sentence length in England and Wales.

Due to these developments, the court responsible for serious crime cases in England and Wales, the Crown Court, has struggled with a backlog of cases, which peaked at 55 thousand in late 2014. While the Crown Court managed to reduce that number to around 33.8 thousand by the third quarter of 2019, the restrictions brought about in the Coronavirus pandemic caused these cases to increase dramatically from 2020 onwards. At the same time, it is also taking longer for trials to reach conclusion, with cases taking an average of 708 days in 2021 to go from offence to completion, compared with 392 days in 2010.

Court structure and workforce

Although the Crown Court deals with the most serious types of crimes, most court cases in England and Wales will proceed through the Magistrate's Court, which had over 286,241 new cases in the third quarter of 2021, compared with 23,621 in the Crown Court. A similar structure exists in Scotland, with indictable crimes being dealt with in the High Court and Sheriff Courts, and summary offences often dealt with in the Justice of the Peace court. These various court systems were staffed by an estimated 35,200 barristers and judges in 2020, compared with 18,800 in 2011. When looking at the background of judges, however, it is clear that more needs to be done to increase diversity, with 91.5 percent of court judges being from the white ethnic group in England and Wales in 2021.

Interesting statistics

In the following 4 chapters, you will quickly find the 24 most important statistics relating to "Criminal justice system in the UK".


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