Criminals getting away with a slap on the wrist: thousands of cautions for serious offences
ARSONISTS, burglars, paedophiles and drug dealers are escaping prosecution with a slap on the wrist.
A Mail investigation has discovered Humberside Police are handing out thousands of cautions for serious crimes, allowing offenders to avoid court and keep a clean record.
More than 18,000 cautions have been recorded against more than 220 different crimes in the past five years.
Offenders responsible for crimes including poisoning, absconding from custody, making indecent photographs of children, and paying for sex with a child have been given the same punishment as people admitting minor crimes, such as failing to wear a crash helmet.
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Paul Davison, former divisional commander of policing in the East Riding who is now in the running to become the first police and crime commissioner (PCC), expressed alarm.
He said: "It's morally wrong to caution for such serious crimes and something needs to be done about it.
"You cannot make reductions on crime if you are not being tough on criminals and sending them to court.
"The police are not going to reduce crime if they are reducing penalties.
"If police are too soft on criminals, they will come out and commit more serious crimes. There needs to be a more aggressive approach."
Mr Davison said he did not have the power to go against the criminal justice system while he was a police officer, but if elected as PCC, he would be able to influence the system.
He said: "I'd look at bringing in a threshold beyond which you can't caution, with rigid guidelines on what you can and can't caution for.
"My campaign involves being tough on crime and to stop it from happening. If you only give out cautions, that's not a deterrent."
In the past five years, more than 5,700 cautions were given for common assault.
A further 1,165 cautions have been given for assaults occasioning actual bodily harm.
Shoplifters were cautioned on 1,120 occasions, with 18 cautions given to arsonists.
Other crimes for which people have been given a caution include interfering with a witness, fraud and entering the country illegally.
According to the Home Office, a caution is intended to act as a first official warning and to deter people from getting involved in crime.
However, the Mail can also reveal several offenders have been given more than one caution, with one criminal receiving six cautions in the past five years.
But today Humberside Police challenged their own statistics, obtained by the Mail as part of a Freedom of Information request.
While figures show nine people have been cautioned for kidnap since 2007, police say the initial crime may have been recorded as kidnap but, when investigated, the evidence would not have supported kidnap.
Instead, the offender is likely to have been cautioned for a lesser offence although it has still been recorded as a caution for kidnap.
Colin Andrews, business manager in Humberside Police's Criminal Justice Unit (CJU), said: "The information given is not fully accurate in terms of classification.
"We do not caution for kidnap, it represents what the person was originally arrested for, or what the complaint made was logged as, but won't always represent what they were disposed for."
However, Mr Andrews did concede there would be cases where people would be cautioned for arson, burglary and supplying drugs.
He said: "When you say burglary, you think of a house burglary but it could be a case where a juvenile steals a rake from a garden shed and it's the first offence and the item is recovered. With arson, it could be that a person set fire to a tyre on a field and no one was hurt.
"With child neglect, it could be a case where there is a good mother, but something has happened whereby the child has been left alone for a short period of time.
"In the right circumstances, a caution can be effective.
"But there are times where a person who has been cautioned has gone on to commit further crime.
"All penalties used by police have a place. The trick is to use the right penalty for the right offender."
Mr Andrews said there are times when the police send a file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for prosecution and the CPS instructs police to issue a caution.
Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor Gerry Wareham said: "Police cautions are a matter for the police. However, in some cases, CPS advice may be sought.
"A caution is only given for serious offences in exceptional circumstances and in line with strict Home Office guidance. Cautions and final warnings are important tools in our armoury and the decision to use them is never taken lightly."