Magistrates Courts

Justice written question – answered on 30th April 2008.

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Photo of Adrian Sanders Adrian Sanders Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Commons)

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many cases where defendants have been charged and appeared before a magistrates court but no further hearing has been held there were in each magistrates court in the south-west region, broken down by constabulary in each of the last five years; and what percentage this represented of all cases in each area in each year.

Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

The following tables show the annual number of completed charged criminal cases (adult and youth), and the estimated proportion disposed of at first hearing, for court groupings in the south-west region of HM Court Service for the years 2002 to 2006. Figures are not yet available for 2007.

Figures are provided based on the location of the magistrates court, as data broken down by police force are not available. However, magistrates courts typically hear cases drawn from their local area.

Figures for the number of cases disposed of at the first hearing are estimates taken from a quarterly survey of magistrates courts. These estimates are therefore subject to sample survey variability, with margins of error as shown in the table.

Number of charged cases and estimated proportion disposed of in one hearing in the south- west region magistrates courts, 2002-06
2002 2003 2004
Area( 1) Number of cases( 2) In one hearing( 3) (%) Margin of error( 4) (+/- %) Number of cases( 2) In one hearing( 3)(%) Margin of error( 4) (+/- %) Number of cases( 2) In one hearing( 3) (%) Margin of error( 4) (+/- %)
Avon and Somerset
Bath and Wansdyke 2,409 30 8 2,561 34 8 2,011 39 8
Bristol 6,649 25 5 7,456 28 4 6,667 33 5
North Avon 2,327 24 10 2,559 24 9 2,364 37 9
South Somerset 1,327 35 12 1,283 37 13 1,208 34 10
Taunton Deane 1,077 28 8 2,764 39 8 2,321 34 7
Woodspring 1,890 35 13 1,985 33 9 1,859 40 10
Avon and Somerset—total 15,679 28 3 18,608 31 3 16,430 35 3
Devon and Cornwall
Central Devon 4,023 60 7 3,913 53 8 3,316 49 7
East Cornwall 2,124 41 9 2,370 45 8 1,962 45 9
North Devon 1,725 46 10 1,591 54 10 1,434 39 11
Plymouth District 3,845 31 7 3,690 35 7 3,601 36 7
South Devon 3,643 35 8 3,707 48 7 3,378 49 8
West Cornwall 2,117 34 9 2,159 39 8 2,079 40 9
Total 17,477 41 3 17,430 45 3 15,770 43 3
Dorset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire
Gloucestershire 6,190 33 5 5,925 32 6 5,900 41 6
North West Wiltshire 2,310 39 11 2,520 48 9 2,492 39 8
Poole 6,959 43 5 6,553 41 5 6,438 44 4
Salisbury 1,557 39 11 1,631 47 10 1,552 50 9
Swindon 2,816 39 8 2,719 41 7 2,620 36 8
Total 19,832 38 3 19,348 40 3 19,002 42 3
Hampshire and Isle of Wight
Isle of Wight 1,773 45 11 2,038 42 9 1,796 35 10
North East Hampshire 6,676 42 7 7,101 51 5 6,915 34 5
South East Hampshire 9,583 39 5 9,068 36 4 9,592 35 4
Southampton 7,948 37 5 7,843 40 5 7,601 35 4
Total 25,980 39 3 26,050 41 2 25,904 35 2
South West Region t otal 78,968 37 1 81,436 39 1 77,106 39 1
2005 2006
Area( 1) Number of cases( 2) In one hearing( 3) (%) Margin of error( 4) (+/- %) Number of cases( 2) In one hearing( 3)(%) Margin of error( 4) (+/- %)
Avon and Somerset
Bath and Wansdyke 2,138 40 8 1,915 34 7
Bristol 6,609 31 5 6,219 29 4
North Avon 2,612 39 8 2,342 26 9
South Somerset 1,203 26 11 1,117 46 10
Taunton Deane 2,518 34 7 2,192 31 7
Woodspring 1,984 41 10 1,766 31 9
Total 17,064 35 3 15,551 32 3
Devon and Cornwall
Central Devon 3,303 52 7 2,670 49 8
East Cornwall 1,876 56 8 1,992 50 9
North Devon 1,385 38 10 1,346 43 10
Plymouth District 3,513 30 6 3,191 35 7
South Devon 3,120 29 8 2,720 43 8
West Cornwall 1,923 41 8 1,847 48 9
Total 15,120 41 3 13,766 44 3
Dorset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire
Gloucestershire 6,338 34 5 6,427 42 5
North West Wiltshire 2,345 40 11 2,274 42 8
Poole 7,163 43 4 7,130 35 4
Salisbury 1,619 52 9 1,466 39 12
Swindon 2,539 42 8 2,217 42 8
Total 20,004 41 3 19,514 39 3
Hampshire and Isle of Wight
Isle of Wight 2,100 48 12 1,823 43 9
North East Hampshire 6,275 48 6 5,597 47 6
South East Hampshire 8,281 31 4 7,018 40 5
Southampton 7,547 38 4 7,406 39 4
Total 24,203 38 3 21,844 41 3
South West Region total 76,391 39 1 70,675 39 1
(1) Local data are presented at clerkship level, clerkships being clusters of one or more courts grouped for administrative purposes. Area and region groupings are those used by Her Majesty's Court Service (HMCS).

(2) Number of cases arising from apprehensions (equivalent to charged cases) taken from MOJ Court Proceedings Database (CPD).

(3) Estimated proportion based on one sample week of charged cases (summons are excluded from these figures) in March, June, September and December. The Time Intervals Survey (TIS) collects the number of hearings for completed criminal cases in magistrates1 courts. More information on TIS is available on the Ministry of Justice website.

(4) The margin of error is a measure of the precision of a result based on a sample survey. Number of hearings in magistrates court cases are measured using data from a sample of the total number of defendants. The sample provides one estimate of the average number of hearings and different samples would produce different averages. The true value is likely to fall within the range of the sample result +/- the margin of error.

Source:

Time Intervals Survey and Court Proceedings Database, MOJ

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Annotations

Karen Jemmett
Posted on 1 May 2008 2:46 pm (Report this annotation)

I assume the Honorable Member is merely raising this issue following the Government's announcement to award the contract for bail hostels to Clearsprings rather than the Probation Service?

It's certainly prompted a useful debate about the number of first hearings that are not pursued by the courts, although the reasons for this are often complex. Clearly, the audit-driven nature of offender management these days does appear to be having an impact on regional conviction rates. In Torbay, for instance, it's in the interests of local authorities and enforcement officers to 'dispose' of those who would otherwise become a long-term drain on local resources. The problem is, of course, that first hearing dismissals can have long-term consequences for those who are wrongly charged in the first place, who then go on to experience life-long classificatory stigmas, which can limit their life chances in other regions. Such disposals run the risk of denying individuals access to justice - particularly in those instances where they are referred instead to the mental health services, for example, or disappear completely off the radar screen.