United Kingdom

With a criminal record

Graphs on this page:

Supporting information:

Key points

  • The number of 18- to 20-year-olds found guilty of an indictable offence fell between 1999 and 2004 but has remained broadly unchanged since then.
  • 47,000 people aged 18 to 20 were found guilty of an indictable offence in 2010.  This represents around 2% of the age group.
  • 90% of those found guilty are men.
  • Black young adults are four times as likely as White young adults to be in prison and six times as likely as Asian young adults.

Why this indicator was originally chosen

Possession of a criminal record constitutes a significant barrier to employment for young adults, which may leave them economically disadvantaged and indeed increase the chances of re-offending.  The barriers which face ex-offenders lie on two main fronts: first, employer discrimination; second, the low levels of skills and qualifications amongst offenders, their poor self-esteem, and behavioural and health problems which can reduce their chances of securing a job. 1

Unemployment may itself increase the chances of criminality.  Economic and social disadvantages have been identified as widely occurring features in the background and upbringing of many young adult offenders.  For example, A False Sense of Security, The Children’s Society, 1993, page 34. 2  And imprisonment can result in increased risks of suicide and self-harm, by up to six times. 3

Definitions and data sources

The first graph shows the number of young men and women aged 18 to 20 who were convicted of an indictable offence in each year.

The data source is the Ministry of Justice’s Criminal Justice Statistics for England and Wales.

The second graph shows, for the latest year, the likelihood of being in prison under sentence across different ethnic groups.  These likelihoods are expressed in terms of the number of offenders aged 20 or younger sentenced who are UK nationals and were in prison in June 2005 per 1,000 population aged 16 to 20 of the relevant ethnic group.

The data source is the Ministry of Justice Offender Management Caseload Statistics.  The data relates to England and Wales.

The figures are for UK nationals only and therefore exclude foreign nationals, with it being assumed that the prison proportion who are foreign nationals is similar for the 16 to 20 age group as for the all-age proportions.

The population estimates are perforce from the 2001 Census, with those of mixed race being included in the relevant ethnic minority group (e.g. ‘White and Asian’ being included in ‘Asian’).

Overall adequacy of the indicator: medium.  The data is dependent upon administrative practices of the police and the judicial system.

External links

Relevant 2007 Public Service Agreements

Overall aim:  Increase the number of children and young people on the path to success

Lead department

Department for Children, Schools and Families.

Official national targets

Reduce the proportion of young people not in education, employment or training by 2 percentage points by 2010.

Reduce the under-18 conception rate by 50% by 2010 as part of a broader strategy to improve sexual health.

Other indicators of progress

Young people participating in positive activities.

Young people frequently using drugs, alcohol or volatile substances.

First-time entrants to the Criminal Justice System aged 10-17.

Overall aim:  Increase the proportion of socially excluded adults in settled accommodation and employment, education or training

Lead department

Cabinet Office.

Official national targets


Other indicators of progress

Care leavers at 19 in suitable accommodation.

Offenders under probation supervision and  in settled  and suitable accommodation.

Adults in contact with secondary mental health services in settled accommodation.

Adults with learning disabilities in settled accommodation.

Care-leavers at 19 in education, training and employment.

Offenders under probation supervision in employment.

Adults in contact with secondary mental health services in employment.

Adults with learning disabilities in employment.

The numbers

Graph 1

Year Males convicted Females convicted
1991 65.3 8.1
1992 58.9 7.3
1993 50.0 6.3
1994 50.3 6.2
1995 47.4 5.7
1996 46.3 5.7
1997 48.4 6.3
1998 51.8 7.1
1999 52.6 7.6
2000 49.9 7.5
2001 48.2 7.0
2002 46.6 6.9
2003 43.8 6.2
2004 39.9 5.7
200538.5 5.3
200639.0 4.8
200740.6 4.6
200838.3 4.7
200939.8 5.0
201041.5 5.1

Graph 2

Asian 0.14%
White 0.21%
Black 0.82%
1. Employment and training for ex-offenders, Joseph Rowntree Foundation Findings, 1998. 
2. Also, see Young offenders speak for themselves, London: The Portobello Trust, 1996, page 1. Also, see Joseph Rowntree Foundation Employment and training for ex-offenders, 1998. 
3. Dennehy, A, Smith, L and Harker, P Not to be ignored, Child Poverty Action Group, page 62.