Criminal Courts and Prisons Linking Dataset becomes latest research-ready output of Data First

The new Criminal Courts and Prisons Linking Dataset will allow researchers to join up information from the de-identified prisons, magistrates’ and Crown Court datasets already made available as a result of the Data First partnership between ADR UK and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

Used in combination with these three datasets, it serves as a lookup to enable researchers to identify records where offenders in the prison data have appeared as a defendant before the magistrates’ or Crown Court (although will not be directly linked to a specific court case). It will not let users identify individuals, just patterns of appearances. This linking dataset will provide powerful new insights on end-to-end user journeys across the criminal justice system, including the nature and frequency of repeat appearances against the context of prison experiences, to build a richer picture of offending behaviour.

The Criminal Courts and Prisons Linking Dataset is supported by a suite of materials to enable accredited researchers – across government and academia – to make the best of use of this data to improve our understanding of justice system use. These resources include a user guide and data catalogue which describe the nature and quality of the data.

Data First is a ground-breaking three-year data linking programme, led by MoJ and funded by ADR UK. The project aims to unlock the potential of the wealth of data already held by MoJ, linking administrative datasets from across the justice system and beyond to inform evidence-based crime and justice policy.

About the data

The release of this linking dataset is made possible following the release of the ‘magistrates’ court defendant case level dataset’ in June 2020, the ‘Crown Court defendant case level dataset’ in August, and the ‘prisoner custodial journey level dataset’ released in February 2021.

The ‘magistrates' court defendant case level dataset’ contains data on court use between 2011 and 2020, and the ‘Crown Court defendant case level dataset’ contains data on court use between 2013 and 2020. This data will provide insight into the magistrates’ and Crown Court user populations, including the nature and extent of repeat use.

The ‘prisoner custodial journey level dataset’ provides information on individual instances of prison experience, enabling researchers to follow a prisoner’s journey within the prison system and selected young offenders’ institutions in England and Wales up to June 2020. The data will enable analysis of prisoner characteristics and patterns of reoffending that lead to repeat custody.

All of these datasets combined via the new linking dataset will help researchers better understand end-to-end experiences of the criminal justice system, from initial receipt, through to sentencing in either type of court, to experience of custody, as well as the relationship between repeat use of the magistrates’ courts and progression to Crown Court or prison. This can in turn inform better policy decisions to mitigate repeat use of courts and custody.

How to access the dataset

Researchers seeking to securely access any of the datasets produced by the Data First programme must first become an accredited researcher by completing the relevant forms from the UK Statistics Authority and submitting them to

If you are already an accredited researcher, you can apply to access the specific data required for your project on

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