Police handed out almost 100 cautions for sexual offences and 150 for child neglect or cruelty in the West Midlands, new figures revealed today.
Nationwide 1,570 sex offenders were let off with a police caution.
The shocking figures were revealed as the government pledged to overhaul the cautions system, with Justice Secretary Chris Grayling vowing serious offenders will no longer receive a mere ‘slap on the wrist’.
Police can use cautions instead of court action if people admit offences. Mr Grayling said he would be scrapping simple cautions, which do not involve any form of punishment, for serious crimes such as rape, manslaughter and robbery.
Police will no longer use them for sexual offences against children such as child prostitution or pornography, possession of an offensive weapon or supplying class-A drugs, he said.
Mr Grayling said: “Last year nearly 500 offenders who admitted committing some of the most serious crimes escaped with just a slap on the wrist.
“Quite simply this is unacceptable and unfair on victims. That is why I am scrapping simple cautions for all of the most serious offences and a range of other offences that devastate lives and tear apart communities.”
Last year a total of 5,084 simple cautions were issued for the most serious crimes – those that would automatically be heard in the Crown Court if they went to trial. These included 962 for possession of knives, 1,543 for other weapons and 54 for supplying or offering to supply class A drugs.
They were also used to deal with a raft of offences related to children, including seven for child prostitution and pornography, 183 for taking, distributing or publishing indecent photographs of children, 268 for possession of indecent photographs of a child, and 1,560 for cruelty or neglect of children.
The new guidance for police forces comes as a review is launched into the use of all out-of-court disposals, such as penalty notices, that Tories hope will show ‘if you break the law, you will not escape the law’.
West Midlands Police inspector Jamie Hopdale said: “The more tools we can put in the toolbox the better. I do understand what the justice secretary is trying to do. He is trying to clamp down on misappropriate use of cautions.”