A year after the riots, how have the accused been treated by the courts?
We’ve had a go at working this out from our project to catalogue cases before the courts – Reading the Riots – but now we have the full official data from the Ministry of Justice and it provides fascinating insights into riot cases across the country.
Compiled by Ministry of Justice chief statistician Iain Bell, the report is based on data manually collected at courts around England.
The data covers up to June 15 this year. By then, a total of 3,051 people had appeared before the courts. Of those, 1,968 were found guilty and sentenced , 65% of the total. Another 15% were dismissed or acquitted. Of the those sentenced, 716 (36%) were sentenced at the magistrates’ court, of which 263 (37%) received an immediate custodial sentence. This compares with 12% of offenders sentenced for similar offences in England and Wales in 2010.
There are still 34 children aged 10 to 17 still remanded in custody awaiting trial. Interestingly, 117 out of the 704 children prosecuted were acquitted – that’s a rate of 16.6% – slightly higher than the 15% rate for all cases.
A lot of people have already been through the justice system – but plenty more are still incarcerated. As at 15th June 2012 there were 692 offenders in prison (including remands) for riot offences and another 710 had already been released.
Who is in court?
The vast majority are young and male. In fact, 89% were male and 11% female.
And we have a breakdown by ethnicity: 36% of defendants were from a white ethnic background, 34% were from a black background, 10% were from a mixed background, 6% were from an Asian ethnic background, 2% were of another ethnic background, and 13% were not stated or not recorded. But the MoJ figures found it varied a lot around the country:
• Salford: 94% white defendants 6% black or mixed black background. The population under 40 is 88% white and 2% black or mixed
• Haringey: 34% white defendants, 55% black or mixed black background. The population under 40 is 62% white and 17% black or mixed
• Nottingham: 32% white defendants and 62% black or mixed black background. The population under 40 is 71% white and 9% black or mixed
• Birmingham: 33% white defendants, 46% black or mixed black background and 15% Asian. The population under 40 is 58% white and 9% black or mixed and 30% Asian
In terms of age, 826 (27%) were aged 10-17 and 2,225 (73%) were adults. But those figures change outside London: in Merseyside, 38% were children aged 10 to 17.
Are the sentences tougher?
Remember, there have been 1,968 people found guilty and sentenced for their part in the disorder, 65% of the 3,051 people brought before the courts so far. Another 15% were dismissed or acquitted. Of those sentenced, 1,292 (66%) have been sentenced to immediate custody with an average sentence of 16.8 months. This compares to 3.7 months for those convicted at magistrates’ courts, but sentenced at any court for similar offences in England and Wales 2010.
There are differences between the each type of court.
Youth courts: In courts handling children aged 10 to 17, there were 503 sentenced, 161 of them going to jail – for an average of eight months. That compares to an immediate custody rate of 5.3% in 2010 for similar offences, with a sentence length of 7.3 months.
Magistrates: 263 people, or 37% received immediate jail – compared with 12% for similar offences in England and Wales in 2010. The average sentence for riot offenders was 6.5 months, compared with 2.5 months for offenders sentenced for similar offences in England and Wales 2010. The MoJ says:
This difference was mainly down to the ACSL given for violent disorder, with offenders sentenced for the public disorder receiving 7.6 months compared to 3.1 months for those sentenced in England and Wales in 2010; burglary, with offenders sentenced for the public disorder receiving 7.2 months, compared to 4.4 months for those sentenced in England and Wales in 2010; and theft and handling, with offenders sentenced for the public disorder receiving 4.6 months, compared to 2.0 months for those sentenced in England and Wales in 2010
Crown Court: 1,029 people sentenced to jail, or, 82%. That compares with 33% of similar cases in 2010. The average sentence was 19.4 months compared with 11.3 months in England and Wales in 2010.
How do different courts treat the cases?
Anecdotal evidence collected by our researchers last year suggested there has been a wide variation in the way different courts are treating riot cases. As the vast majority of cases are in London, we have turned them into percentages to show what happens to each case in each area. It appears to show that London courts are remanding proportionally more people to jail, while Manchester and Merseyside are bailing more. Click on the chart to see how it varies.
Is poverty a factor?
In figures published earlier, the MoJ has made an attempt to gauge poverty levels for those in court. It found that 35% of adults claiming an out of work benefit – compared to 12% of the working age population in England in February 2011. 45% of those sentenced in 2010 were receiving a benefit – so the riot numbers are actually lower.
The report backs up the idea of a lost generation of young people taking part in the riots. Some 42% of children who appeared in court for riot offences were on free school meals – compared to 16% of all pupils in state secondary schools. Regionally, that fits in London, where 40% of young people appearing before the courts were in receipt of FSM compared to 26% of all London pupils in secondary schools, and the North West (50% and 18% respectively)
Young people appearing before the courts came “disproportionately from areas with high levels of deprivation” as defined by the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Indices 2010. 64% of 10-17 year-olds lived in one of the 20% most deprived areas. Only 3% lived in one of the 20% richest areas.
How many are in prison?
The figures also show a much more draconian approach to using prison sentences with 331 have sentenced to jail, with an average sentence of 12.5 months. This compares to an sentence 3.7 months for those convicted at magistrates’ courts. Combined with those remanded to jail during their court hearing, The result is that 846 people are in prison now – of which 86 are aged 15 to 17 and 110 are foreign nationals.
What are their previous records?
The MoJ has matched information on the riot accused with the Police National Computer to search for previous cautions and convictions. The results show that for those in court on a riot-related charge:
• 76% of those who have appeared before the courts for the disorder had a previous caution or conviction
• 80% of adults and 62% of juveniles had a previous caution or conviction
• 71% of adult males who have been brought before the courts for the disorder had at least one previous conviction compared to 28% of males aged 18-52 in the population as a whole who have at least one previous conviction
• 45% of males aged 10-17 brought before the courts for the disorder had at least one previous conviction. This compares with 2% of the 10-17 year old male population who have at least one previous conviction
• 24% of those brought before the courts for their role in the disorder had no previous cautions or convictions. This compares with 23% of those dealt with for indictable offences in 2010/11.
• 40% of those brought before the courts had more than five previous offences. This compares with 50% of those dealt with in 2010/11 for indictable offences.
Interestingly, the report says:
This suggests that while those taking part in the disorder were much more likely than the general population to have previous convictions, they are not quite as prolific as offenders sentenced for indictable offences in 2010/11.
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