Sexual offences in court

Published: 3rd Mar 2017

In brief

Claim

50% of cases in some Crown Courts are sex cases.

Conclusion

We haven’t seen figures yet to substantiate this. We’ve asked the Ministry of Justice.

“[In] some of our Crown Courts, 50% of the cases are sex cases.”

Liz Truss, 2 March 2017

The Question Time discussion up to this point was about child sexual abuse, but Ms Truss was talking here about sex crimes more generally. She doesn’t appear to be saying that half the criminal cases in some areas involve paedophiles.

We don’t know which specific figures or courts Ms Truss was referring to. We’ve asked the Ministry of Justice.

Official figures can only tell us so much

The Crown Court deals with more serious crimes in England and Wales. 13% of the cases received by the Crown Court in the 12 months to September 2016 were prosecutions for sexual offences.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that 13% of cases that actually go before a jury are for sexual offences. The official statistics show far fewer trials than cases received by the Crown Court. This may be because cases in which the defendant pleads guilty aren’t counted as trials; we’ve asked the statisticians to confirm this.

The upshot is that, as far as we know, the official data can’t tell us how many of the defendants that actually face the jury do so because they’re accused of a sexual crime. So Ms Truss may have been using another source of information.

An alternative, unofficial estimate has been made recently

In October 2016, criminal barristers Richard Jory QC and Sam Jones wrote that “more than half of all cases now heard in the Crown Court concern sexual allegations, and the proportion is increasing”. This may be what Ms Truss was referring to.

Mr Jory told us that the barristers spoke “to a number of court staff and users, including other advocates and judges, and combined this with our own experience in the courts to make an assessment”.

On their own, there’s no way to know how accurate the barristers’ overall estimates are without official figures which actually record the subject of trials, which so far we haven’t been able to find.

This factcheck is part of a roundup of BBC Question Time. Read the roundup.


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