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Magistrates' Courts: Convictions

Question for Attorney General

UIN 163550, tabled on 12 July 2018

To ask the Attorney General, with reference to tables three and seven of the Crown Prosecution Service Annual Report 2016-17, what the reasons are for conviction rates in Magistrates Courts being higher than those in Crown Court; and what assessment his Department has made of the reasons for defendants having a 25 per cent greater chance of acquittal at a Crown Court than at a Magistrates Court.

Answered on

25 July 2018

The latest annual report and accounts are now available on the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Website. The table below shows that, during each of the last four most recently available years, conviction rates have remained stable in both magistrates’ courts and at the Crown Court.





Magistrates' Courts Conviction Rate





Crown Court Conviction Rate





Data Source: CPS Management Information System

Cases prosecuted at magistrates’ courts tend to comprise minor or less serious offences with a greater proportion of defendants pleading guilty (78.0% during 2017-18, compared to 70.9% at the Crown Court). By way of example, motoring cases comprise over 21% of cases in the magistrates’ courts but only 2% in the Crown Court.

In contrast, a greater proportion of cases triable on indictment at the Crown Court are serious and complex in nature, and defendants are more likely to plead not guilty. During the most recent year, 16.8% of prosecutions at the Crown Court resulted in a trial, with a conviction after contest rate of 54.0%, compared to 9.1% of magistrates’ courts prosecutions and a conviction after contest rate of 62.1%.

Answered by

Attorney General