CRIMINAL prosecutions in England and Wales plunged by almost 60 per cent in three months as restrictions imposed to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic hit the justice system, figures suggest.

Both prosecutions and convictions were down 18 per cent in the 12 months to June 2020, compared to the previous year, according to Ministry of Justice (MOJ) statistics.

The report published on Thursday, which is the first to contain a full quarter affected by the coronavirus pandemic, shows the impact on courts as restrictions on movement were imposed to tackle coronavirus towards the end of March.

Prosecutions fell by 58 per cent, from 313,600 between January to March to 130,700 between April to June 2020.


There were similar drops in convictions and offenders sentenced, which plummeted by 59 per cent and 58 per cent respectively.

The figures also show the average custodial sentence hit its highest in a decade in the year to June – reaching 19.5 months, up two months from the previous year.

“This increase continues the longer term upward trend over the last ten years and in the latest year may be partly influenced by the prioritisation of cases likely to result in custody in response to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions on movement,” the report said.

A total of 1.34 million people were dealt with by the criminal justice system in the year to June, down 15 per cent on the previous 12 months. The latest quarter saw a 49 per cent drop from the previous three months.

The total number of offenders sentenced dropped 17 per cent to 975,000 compared to the previous year, the data shows.

Just 17,500 were sentenced in April, down 77 per cent from the previous month but by June the figure had increased to 53,700.

An MoJ spokesman said: “The situation has vastly improved since the period these figures cover – magistrates’ backlogs are now falling and the number of cases being resolved by the Crown Courts has trebled since April.

“We’re spending £80 million on a range of measures to further drive this recovery, including hiring 1,600 additional staff and opening more Nightingale courts to boost capacity.”