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The truth about criminal cases

The purpose of this page is to shed some light on how long it typically takes between an offence being committed and the case being resolved in a criminal court. Graphic showing the likelihood of a trial going ahead. The magistrates' courts pie chart shows that 45% of trials are effective, 38% are cracked and 17% are ineffective. The Crown Court pie chart shows that 52% of trials are effective, 36% are cracked and 13% are ineffective.

Magistrates' or Crown Court?

All criminal cases start in the magistrates' court. Depending on the seriousness of the crime the case will either take place in a magistrates' court from start to finish, or will be referred from a magistrates' court to a higher court, usually the Crown Court.

Over half of all criminal court trials don't go ahead as planned, which uses up court time. Some, called 'cracked' cases, don't go ahead on the intended date at very short notice but don't need rescheduling - this might be because the defendant entered a guilty plea, or the case is dropped by the prosecution. But other trials that don't go ahead and do need rescheduling are called 'ineffective' - this might be because the prosecution or the defence aren't ready to begin the trial, or the defendant doesn't attend as instructed. Those cases that do go ahead are said to be 'effective'.

More about how courts work...

Case length in your local area

Just 19 percent of a criminal case on average is spent in courtYou can find out about the average time a case took - from the offence to the outcome - in courts within your local area between January and March 2014. Cases are broken down into three stages:

  • offence committed, up until defendant charged (formally accused by the police) or written summons received
  • defendant charged or written summons received, up until first hearing
  • first hearing, up until case outcome

Note: Case length may vary between courts due to the volumes, types and complexity of cases they have dealt with during that period. Sexual offences, fraud and forgery take longer, for example, because they are often reported to the police some time after they took place.


National
England & Wales (Crown Court and magistrates' courts)

Weeks in total
average over 359,524 cases

Breakdown of weeks

  • Weeks between offence and defendant being charged/case laid in court
  • Weeks between case being laid and first hearing
  • Weeks between first hearing and case outcome
  • 0
  • 5
  • 10
  • 15
  • 20
  • 25
  • 30
  • 35
  • 40
  • 45
  • 52

National
England and Wales (Crown Court)

Weeks in total
average over 22,535 cases

Breakdown of weeks

  • Weeks between offence and defendant being charged/case laid in court
  • Weeks between case being laid and first hearing
  • Weeks between first hearing and case outcome
  • 0
  • 5
  • 10
  • 15
  • 20
  • 25
  • 30
  • 35
  • 40
  • 45
  • 52

National
England and Wales (Magistrates' courts)

Weeks in total
average over 336,989 cases

Breakdown of weeks

  • Weeks between offence and defendant being charged/case laid in court
  • Weeks between case being laid and first hearing
  • Weeks between first hearing and case outcome
  • 0
  • 5
  • 10
  • 15
  • 20
  • 25
  • 30
  • 35
  • 40
  • 45
  • 52

Your selection
Please select a court from the 'Map' tab

Weeks in total
average over 0 cases

Breakdown of weeks

  • Weeks between offence and defendant being charged/case laid in court
  • Weeks between case being laid and first hearing
  • Weeks between first hearing and case outcome
  • 0
  • 5
  • 10
  • 15
  • 20
  • 25
  • 30
  • 35
  • 40
  • 45
  • 52
    Select a court area on the map opposite to view the list of courts

LJAs or 'local justice areas' - groups of one or more magistrates' courts which are administered together.

About these statistics

These figures are based on statistics published in March 2014 by the Ministry of Justice on the GOV.UK website. Feedback can be emailed to the Ministry of Justice statistics enquiries mailbox.

The average is calculated over the number of defendants whose cases are finally completed in either a magistrates' court or the Crown Court during each quarter (as opposed to the total number of cases).

Cases are counted based on the court - either a magistrates' court or a Crown Court site - where the case is finally concluded. Since all criminal cases start in a magistrates' court, this means that for cases which finish in the Crown Court, the duration measured includes the time when the case was being dealt with by a magistrates' court.

Magistrates' courts statistics are shown according to 'local justice areas' (LJAs) rather than for individual court locations. LJAs are groups of one or more magistrates' courts in a geographical area which are administered together. A few Crown Court sites may not be named directly when they are situated in the same building as county or other courts.

More information about the collation of these statistics can be found on the Justice website.


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