The number of people formally dealt with by the criminal justice system fell last year to the lowest level since 1970 despite police figures showing a six per cent rise in offending, official statistics revealed today.
The Ministry of Justice figures showed that the number of people dealt with by the justice system in England and Wales fell by three per cent in 2018.
The decline was made up of a two per cent drop in prosecutions and an 11 per cent fall in “out-of-court disposals”, such as community punishments.
The statistics also revealed that nearly two-fifths of offenders now have long criminal records, up by 10 per cent on the figure a decade ago.
The disclosures will heighten concerns that cuts to police funding and other parts of the justice system are affecting the ability of law enforcers to bring criminals to court and to stop reoffending.
Among the exceptions to the trend were prosecutions for possession of weapons, which rose by four per cent during 2018 in response to the significant increase in knife offending nationwide.
Prosecutions for sex offences and fraud were also up over the year, but all other categories of offending fell.
The result was that the number of people taken to court fell to 1.38 million, marking a 16 per cent drop compared with the equivalent tally for 2008.
An analysis accompanying the figures said a nine per cent fall in people charged by police over the past year was one factor behind the phenomenon.
It also pointed out that police recorded crime rose by six per cent over the same period, with a total of 5.7 million offences, including fraud crimes, registered by forces during 2018. The conviction rate remained high at 87 per cent.