Thursday, 5 July 2012

August 2011 Disorder ~ Judicial and Court ~ Statistics

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics."  The phrase is something of a warning to exercise care when reading statistics.  Nevertheless, two interesting statistical offerings from  the Ministry of Justice and one from the Attorney-General's Office are worthwhile reading.  Make of them what you will.


August 2011 Disorder:

A "Statistical Bulletin on the public disorder of 6th to 9th August 2011."   The bulletin gives updated information on those brought before the courts for offences related to the public disorder of 6th to 9th August 2011. Information is provided on those individuals brought before the courts; their initial outcomes and sentencing based on data available up to 8th June 2012.

The Ministry of Justice comments -
"The first stage of the court process is for those accused to have a first hearing at magistrates’ courts. 3,051 people had appeared before the court by 8th June 2012 for offences related to the public disorder. Of these, 2,428 (80 per cent) have reached a final outcome.

The offences for which people were most commonly brought before the court were Burglary (50 per cent), violent disorder (22 per cent) and theft (16 per cent). The remaining offences covered small numbers of a wide range of offences.

As of 8th June 2012, there have been 1,968 persons found guilty and sentenced for their part in the disorder, 65 per cent of the 3,051 people brought before the courts so far. An additional 15 per cent were dismissed or acquitted. Of those sentenced, 1,292 (66 per cent) have been sentenced to immediate custody with an average custodial sentence length (ACSL) of 16.8 months. This compares to an ACSL of 3.7 months for those prosecuted at magistrates’ courts, but sentenced at any court for similar offences in England and Wales in 2010."
 
The Guardian has a particularly interesting collection of material under the heading Reading the Riots.

The role of the courts was, of course, to deal with defendants according to law.  The vast majority of the disorder cases were dealt with summarily in Magistrates' Courts and most of the cases were listed before District Judges (Magistrates' Courts).  In practice, a "get tough" stance was adopted.  Bail was not readily granted.  There was a pressure to finalise cases quickly combined with almost automatic imposition of custodial sentences.  In an article in The Guardian 5th July, the Director of Public Prosecutions (Keir Starmer QC) questioned whether heavy sentences given to last summer's rioters worked as an effective deterrence, challenging the received wisdom from senior judges and politicians.  "For me it was the speed [of processing cases] that I think may have played some small part in bringing the situation back under control."

The Crown Prosecution Service recently announced a scheme to fast-track the trials of people accused of offences linked to the Olympics, based on last summer's experience of quickly dealing with riot cases.
 

See the Riots, Communities and Victims Panel Final report

Posts on this blog at the time of the disorder were

Who will pay? We all will !  The Riot (Damages) Act 1886

Defence of property: what is permissible?

Some thoughts on a desperate August week

The recent disorder: bail and sentencing

Detained persons: blanket refusal to bail

The August disorder - more sentencing

August: will voices of calm prevail

Judicial and Court Statistics:

A further set of statistics are the Judicial and Court Statistics for 2011 .  This document makes for interesting reading.  Here are some of the headline figures:

The total net expenditure for all publicly funded legal services was £1.9 billion in 2010 -11 - a decrease of 10% on the previous year.  This figure should see further reductions as the changes to legal aid in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 kick in.

County Courts saw 1,553,983 non-family cases started.  Magistrates' Courts dealt with 1.62 million defendants.

The Crown Court received 148250 new cases and disposed of 150,268.

High Court work saw a 6% increase in the Chancery Division though work remains well below the 2009 level.  Bankruptcy cases increased by 10%.  The Administrative Court had 11,200 applications for judicial review - mainly in relation to Asylum and Immigration.

The Court of Appeal - Civil Division - there were 3,758 applications filed/set down and 3,709 disposed of - representing increases of 12 per cent and 17 per cent respectively on 2010, and both measures are at their highest level since 2005..

The Court of Appeal - Criminal Division heard 2576 appeals and received 7475 applications for leave to appeal, 1535 of which related to sentence.

The Supreme Court  determined 81 appeals.  Another interesting fact is that there are more female Justices of the Peace than males.

A statistic which ought to give rise to concern is the number of "Public Law" family cases.  These are cases where Local Authorities have initiated care proceedings in relation to a child.  In 2008 there were 19760 such cases and, in 2011, 29492.

Undue leniency - Attorney General's Office:

Further statistics were issued by the Attorney-General's Office relating to referrals to the Court of Appeal Criminal Division on the basis that a sentence was unduly lenient.  117 cases were referred in 2011 and in 97 cases the court decided that the sentence was unduly lenient.  Sentence was increased in 94 cases.  

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