HC Deb 25 May 2000 vol 350 cc629-31W
Sir Nicholas Lyell

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, pursuant to his answer to the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe), of 2 March 2000,Official Report, column 377W, on the Criminal Justice (Mode of Trial) Bill, (1) what proportion of the total number of Crown Court defendants in either way cases is represented by the 14,000 defendants who would be tried in the magistrates courts, indicating (a) the total assumed number of such defendants, (b) the proportion of the total who are assumed to plead guilty, (c) the proportion of the total that are assumed to have been tried according to the evidence, (d) the proportion of the 14,000 assumed to have pleaded guilty in the Crown Court, (e) the proportion of the 14,000 assumed to have been fully tried in the Crown Court, (f) the proportion of those fully tried which it is assumed would have been convicted and (g) the average sentences which it is assumed those convicted would have received; [123856]

(2) of the 14,000 defendants assumed to have remained in the magistrates court, what proportion (a) would have pleaded guilty, (b) would have been fully tried and (c) would have been convicted; what is the average length of trial assumed in the magistrates court; what legal prosecution and defence costs are assumed in the cases of (i) plea of guilty and (ii) full trial; what proportion of those convicted are assumed to have received a custodial sentence and of what length; what profile of sentences of non-custodial sentence is assumed in relation to what proportion of the remainder; and on what basis assumptions as to the relevant length of sentence have been made; [123857]

(3) what average remand times have been assumed in respect of Crown Court cases, and magistrates court cases in relation to savings from shorter sentences; what profile of offences has been assumed and what average sentence has been assumed in relation to each such offence in the Crown Court and the magistrates court; and how many relevant previous convictions have been assumed in each case; [123858]

(4) how many separate hearings have been assumed in the Crown Court, and in the magistrates court, in relation to each case; [123860]

(5) what has been taken as the average length and costs of a contested trial in (a) the Crown Court and (b) the magistrates court; and what are the equivalent figures in each court in respect of cases where the defendant eventually pleads guilty. [123859]

Mr. Charles Clarke

In 1997, some 63,000 defendants were committed for trial at the Crown Court in either-way cases; 14,000 represents about 22 per cent. of that number. In 1998, the proportion of defendants pleading guilty to either-way offences in the Crown Court was 66 per cent., but, for costing purposes, our model assumes a higher guilty plea rate of 80 per cent., which has the effect of minimising the savings which might be expected from the reform. About 38 per cent. of defendants contesting either-way offences in the Crown Court were convicted, and a similar rate was assumed for costing purposes.

The savings for the Criminal Justice (Mode of Trial) (No.2) Bill were measured using the flows and costs model which was developed by the Home Office in collaboration with the Lord Chancellor's Department and Crown Prosecution Service to estimate the cost of initiatives in the criminal justice system. The costs are based on a theft and handling case in the Crown Court and an average indictable case in the magistrates courts. The particular assumptions made in relation to the 14,000 defendants who would be tried in the magistrates courts as a result of the Bill are given in the table:

Remand time avoided 9 weeks
Timeous guilty plea rate 80 per cent.
Late guilty plea rate 10 per cent.
Not guilty plea rate 10 per cent.
Appeal against mode of trial decision 25 per cent.
Average sentence imposed at the Crown Court 10.9 months
Average sentence imposed in the magistrates courts 3.6 months
Custodial sentence rate in Crown Court 46.5 per cent.
Custodial sentence rate in the magistrates courts 22.5 per cent.

It has also been assumed that these cases involve no more and no fewer hearings then equivalent cases in their class and venue. There are a number of other variables, such as length of trial, which are not specifically included in the costing exercise but which were reflected in the costs and flows model. Assumptions have been made about remand time avoided rather than about average remand times. No information is available on the cost of proceedings and sentences by number of previous convictions.

The background to the costs and flows model is available on the internet at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/areas/econpf.htm