United Kingdom

With a criminal record

Graphs on this page:

Supporting information:

Key points

  • 74,000 children aged 10 to 17 were found guilty of, or cautioned for, indictable offences in 2010.  Numbers have fallen sharply in each year since 2007, when the number was 126,000.  The net result is that the number in 2010 is lower than at any time since the data first became available in the mid 1990s.
  • Both the fall in the latest three years and the rises in the years immediately before that are largely accounted for by changes in the number of cautions, with the numbers found guilty having remained stable throughout.
  • Almost half of the 74,000 offences were committed by children aged 15 or under.
  • The peak rate for offending is at ages 17 to 20, with rates being much lower from age 21 onwards and below the age of 16.
  • Nearly half of all the offences committed in 2010 by children involved theft, with drug offences and violence against the person being the other two big groups.
  • Four times as many boys are found guilty of, or cautioned for, indictable offences as girls.  Among girls, theft is by far the most likely crime to be committed, accounting for two-thirds of all crimes committed by girls.  By contrast, although still the largest single category, theft accounts for just a third of the crimes committed by boys.

Why this indicator was originally chosen

The heightened risks of being socially disadvantaged, either immediately or later on as a result of acquiring a criminal record, underpins the choice of this indicator.   Moreover, high reconviction rates of those aged under 17 discharged from custody illustrate the greater risks of young offenders developing criminal careers which may exclude them from mainstream society on a long-term basis. 1

Definitions and data sources

The first graph shows the number of children between the ages of 10 and 17 who were either formally cautioned for, or convicted of, an indictable offence.

The second graph shows, for the latest year, the number of indictable offences per 1,000 population by age group.  For comparison purposes, the rates for adults are also shown.

The third graph shows, for the latest year, the proportion of indictable offences by each age group between 10 and 17.

The fourth graph shows, for the latest year, the number of indictable offences by gender and type of offence.

The data source for all the graphs is Ministry of Justice’s Criminal Justice Statistics and the data relates to England and Wales.  Note that the cautions are formal cautions only.  Both a guilt verdict and a formal caution result in a criminal record.

Overall adequacy of the indicator: medium.  The figures are police-recorded crime only and should not be taken as accurate estimates of the total extent of crime carried out by children.

External links

For a discussion of the links between crime, deprivation and social exclusion, see the crimeinfo website.

See the Youth Justice Board site.

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

None.

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 Found guiltyCautioned
Boys Girls Total Boys Girls Total
1995 37,200 5,000 42,200 64,500 26,200 90,700
1996 39,200 5,200 44,400 58,300 21,700 80,000
1997 40,700 5,600 46,300 54,800 18,800 73,600
1998 43,300 6,300 49,600 55,800 21,400 77,200
1999 44,000 6,500 50,500 50,700 19,200 69,900
2000 42,400 6,600 49,000 45,300 19,000 64,300
2001 43,400 6,900 50,300 44,000 19,300 63,300
2002 42,400 6,500 48,900 39,900 16,700 56,600
2003 39,500 6,400 45,900 41,000 17,800 58,800
2004 40,300 6,700 47,000 44,600 21,300 65,900
2005 40,700 7,100 47,800 49,100 24,400 73,500
200640,800 6,800 47,600 51,900 25,200 77,100
200743,500 7,300 50,900 49,700 25,500 75,200
200839,500 6,500 46,000 39,100 19,100 58,300
200937,300 6,400 43,700 31,100 17,300 48,500
201035,800 5,500 41,300 22,500 9.900 32,400

Graph 2

Age Per 1,000 population
10 0
111
123
138
1414
1522
1628
1732
1831
1932
2030
21-2425
25-2921
30-3914
40-497
50-593
60+1

Graph 3

Age Share
10-1311%
1413%
1520%
1626%
1730%

Graph 4

Type of offence Boys Girls
Theft19,300 9,800
Drug offences11,200 800
Violence against the person8,900 2,400
Burglary6,500 400
Criminal damage2,900 500
Other9,500 1,400

1. In 1993, 90% of young offenders were re-convicted within two years: Criminal statistics, England and Wales 1996, Home Office, 1996, page 48.