The Crown Prosecution Service says quarterly statistics published for the first time to increase transparency and accountability illustrate ‘several long-term challenges’ for the criminal justice system.
Data for the second quarter of 2019/2020 shows an ongoing decrease in receipts from the police and, as a result, a continuing decline in prosecution volumes.
The CPS says an increase in the average charging time is linked to the increasing complexity of offences prosecuted, evidenced by an increase in the average number of consultations per case across several offences.
Max Hill, director of public prosecutions, said: ‘Performance across the criminal justice system is rightly under the spotlight and this move to quarterly reporting demonstrates our commitment to transparency and accountability to help inform public debate.
‘Our cases are growing in complexity, requiring more early engagement with investigators, which means charging decisions are taking longer. Overall, we continue to see a reduction in police referrals and fewer cases are coming to court. I welcome the government’s focus on a fair justice system that keeps people safe, and will continue to work with our partners to understand and address these issues.’
Overall, pre-charge receipts from the police have fallen from 63,384 in October-December 2018 to 56,966 in July-September 2019.The proportion of suspects charged has ‘increased steadily’ – 74.6% of suspects were charged in the year to September 2019. There were 479,254 completed prosecutions in the year to September 2019, compared with 494,811 in 2018/19. The CPS says convictions rates have ‘fluctuated’ – 84% in the year to September 2019.
Hate crime data shows pre-charge receipts from the police were 9,432 in the year up to September 2019, compared to 10,749 in 2018/19. Completed prosecutions have fallen from 12,828 in 2018/19 to 12,085 in the year to September 2019.
In domestic abuse cases, pre-charge receipts from the police fell from 98,470 in 2018/19 to 86,665 in the year to September 2019 – a 12% fall. Of all legal pre-charge decisions, the volume charged fell from 67,462 in 2018/19 to 59,685 in the year to September 2019 – an 11.5% fall. Completed prosecutions fell from 78,624 in 2018/19 to 69,756 in the year to September 2019 – an 11.3% drop.
In rape cases, the volume of pre-charge receipts from the police fell by 14.4% in the year to September 2019 compared with 22.8% in 2018/19. There is a 1.4% increase in the volume of suspects charged in the year to September 2019 compared with a 37.7% fall in 2018/19. However, completed prosecutions have fallen by 22.8% in the year to September 2019 compared with 32.8% in 2018/19.
Hill said he shared the public’s ‘deep concern’ over the growing gap between the number of rape cases being reported and conviction numbers. The CPS, he said, is playing an active role in a cross-government review to understand the reasons for the gap.