Police, court and prison personnel statistics

Data extracted in July 2018.

Planned article update: July 2020.

There were 324 police officers per 100 000 people in the EU in 2016.

In 2016, 21 % of police officers and 50 % of judges in the EU were women.

In 2016, 25 % of prison staff in the EU were women.

Police officers2-02.jpg

This article describes key findings on personnel statistics using official figures from police, courts and prisons in the European Union (EU) for the period 2008 - 2016, including the number of employees and the proportion of women.

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One police officer per 309 people

In recent years, the number of police officers in the EU has slowly been decreasing. In 2016, the EU had a total of 1 653 000 police officers, a reduction of 2.1 % since 2009. Overall, there were 324 police officers per 100 000 people in the EU in 2016, or one police officer per 309 people. However, there are big differences between Member States, as illustrated in Figure 1. Romania, England and Wales, Sweden, Denmark and Finland had fewer than 250 police officers per 100 000 people, while in Slovakia, Portugal, Italy, Latvia, Croatia, Greece, Malta and Cyprus there were more than 400. Countries organise their law enforcement differently, according to national needs, resources and priorities. Another difference between national figures is who exactly counts as police. For example, some special police units may be counted in different ways. The standard definition of police officers does not include clerks, maintenance staff and other employees who are not directly involved in typical police work.

Figure 1: Police officers (per hundred thousand inhabitants) 2016

Source: Eurostat (crim_just_job)

One in five police officers is a woman

In 2008, 16.7 % of police officers were female, a share that increased to 21.1 % in 2016 (see Figure 2). Figures are missing for some countries, especially in the early years and, therefore, an adjusted trend has been calculated. Please see the section "Quality" for more information.

Half of professional judges are women

There were around 86 000 professional judges in the EU in 2016, a figure that has remained relatively stable since 2008. In 2008, 45.9 % of judges in the EU were women, a share that increased to 49.5 % in 2016 (see Figure 2). Please see the section "Quality" for more information.

These figures merge all court levels; the proportion of women is, however, different between court levels. To illustrate this, here is an example from another data source[1]: in the United Kingdom, 20 % of high court judges were women, compared with 31 % of district judges, and 46 % of tribunal judges. To compare such figures between countries is not straightforward, since national justice systems differ greatly, for example, on the extent of voluntary or honorary positions (not included in figures for professional judges).

Figure 2: Police officers and professional judges in the EU (share of women)

Source: Eurostat (crim_just_job)

The difference between national justice systems is also reflected in the large variation in numbers of professional judges relative to the population size. As shown in Figure 3, Croatia, Slovenia and Greece had 40 or more professional judges per 100 000 people, while France, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Czechia and Ireland had fewer than 10.

Figure 3: Professional judges (per hundred thousand inhabitants), 2016

Source: Eurostat (crim_just_job)

Number of prison staff fell between 2008 and 2016

There were around 294 000 prison staff in the EU in 2016, following a downward trend since 2008 [2] (see Figure 5 in the section Quality). This reduction may have a number of causes. One factor to consider is the number of prisoners: in the EU in 2008 – 2016, the number of adult prisoners fell by 5 %.[3] Another factor is the composition of prison staff types. Prison staff figures include prison guards, as well as other staff providing education, training, health treatment, maintenance, cooking, etc. This is different from the police statistics, where fewer types of occupations are included. The number of different occupations in each prison is determined by, for instance, the type of prisoners and the duration of imprisonment.

One in four prison staff is female

The share of women as prison staff in the EU remained stable between 2008 and 2016, around 25 %. Figure 4 shows that the number varies greatly between EU Member States, ranging from 47.0 % in Denmark to 15.8 % in Italy (average 2014 – 2016). As mentioned, these figures include several kinds of occupations. Generally, the percentage of women varies greatly between occupations, such as guards, health personnel, teachers, etc. Results from the Labour Force Survey indicate that between 2008 and 2016 the proportion of female prison guards was around 20 % in the EU[4].

Figure 4: Personnel in adult prisons (share of women), average 2014 - 2016

Source: Eurostat (crim_just_job)

Government expenditure on courts stable between 2008 and 2016

The personnel statistics are based on official figures from police, courts and prisons. While the organisation of public services may be different between countries, police, courts and prisons are important activities for any government. It is, therefore, relevant to compare police, court, and prison staff figures with the relevant government total expenditure.

In the EU between 2007 and 2016, general government total expenditure for law courts (as a proportion of total expenditure) was stable, at 0.7 %. The same figure for prisons was also stable, at 0.4 %. At the same time, the share in general government total expenditure for police services in the EU decreased from 2.2 % to 2.0 %. Most police expenditure was compensation to employees (wages, salaries and employers' social contributions), at 78 % in the EU in 2016[5].


Generally, missing figures is one of the largest problems in crime statistics. As an example, this section shows how missing figures affect the EU total for prison staff. The basic data are official figures from national prison administrations. To measure the EU trend accurately, figures from all EU Member States for each year are needed. In practice, some figures are missing here and there, for various reasons. Thus, a trend based only on the reported figures can be inaccurate even though each reported figure is accurate. Therefore, an adjusted trend is calculated. For instance, when a figure for a country is missing for one year, an average for the year before and after (from the same country) is used. When the latest figure (2016) is missing, the previous (2015) is used. This method is relatively accurate for figures that do not change much from year to year. In some cases, figures are missing for several years and that country is excluded from the calculation of the trend.

Figure 5 shows three series of figures: the adjusted sum (EU), the sum of reported figures, and the sum for only those countries that have reported figures for all nine years. All three show downward trends between 2008 and 2016. The sum of reported figures fluctuates the most, which is unlikely to reflect the actual trend.

Figure 5: Personnel in adult prisons, EU

Source: Eurostat (crim_just_job)

Figures for 2016 are missing for several countries - which affects the adjusted number for this year particularly (294 000). Since there has been a downward trend for several years, the real number of EU prison staff in 2016 could be slightly lower.

Other examples where this adjustment is used are the proportions of women police officers and professional judges (see Figure 2). As a quality check, a comparison with the Labour Force Survey (interview data) showed similar results for police. For judges, the results were more uncertain[6].

Source data for tables and graphs

Data sources

The personnel statistics are official figures from police, courts and prisons. Each country provides these figures to Eurostat as part of a yearly data collection.

1993 - 2007

The number of police officers:

  • available for 10 EU countries 1993, gradually more 1994 - 1998
  • available for all EU countries 1999 - 2007.

2008 - 2016

The number of personnel by sex and occupation:

  • police officers,
  • professional judges,
  • prison personnel.

Figures by sex are missing for some countries, as are main figures in some years.


The figures are official statistics produced by authorities in each country: police, prosecution, courts and prisons, and the statistical office. Each country establishes criminal laws, crime definitions, law enforcement, legal proceedings and reactions, and governs national crime statistics. How crimes are defined and counted in official crime statistics varies between countries. Comparing official crime figures between countries can, therefore, be misleading.

Official crime statistics mainly indicate the registration and handling of cases by authorities, such as police, prosecution, courts, and prisons. However, users often want to know about total occurrence of a crime, while only a fraction is recorded by the authorities. This depends – among other things – on reports to the police from victims and witnesses. Inferring about crime occurrence from official crime figures can, therefore, be misleading.


  1. Source: https://www.judiciary.uk/publications/judicial-statistics-2015/
  2. Only adult prisons are included here, statistics for other prisons are less complete.
  3. Source: Eurostat [crim_pris_age]
  4. Labour Force Survey. Data available for researchers: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/microdata/overview Occupation code: 5413
  5. Source: Eurostat [gov_10a_exp]
  6. Data available for researchers: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/microdata/overview Occupation codes: 5412 and 3355
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