DOZENS of rapists, violent thugs, robbers, arsonists and other sex offenders have escaped with just a caution from police in the past five years, the Oxford Mail can reveal.
The Government has announced new guidance and a review of police use of cautions this week amidst fears officers are letting criminals guilty of serious crimes dodge facing court.
The Oxford Mail has obtained figures showing 15,466 cautions were given out in the county between April 2006 and March last year, including for 52 offences the law says are so serious they can only be handled by a judge and jury in court.
- Three rapes of underage girls
- Three of arson with intent to endanger life
- Two of grevious bodily harm with intent
- 17 muggings
- 17 other serious sexual assaults.
And, in addition to those indictable-only offences – meaning they would have been heard by a crown court rather than a magistrates’ court had they gone to trial – there were 21 other assaults that caused grievous bodily harm, a prisoner who escaped from custody, three kidnappings, 200 cases of fraud, 90 burglaries, four cases of pimping prostitutes and 10 people who did not register as ordered by a court with the Sex Offenders’ Register.
Cautions are given by police when there is not a realistic prospect of getting a conviction in court or it is deemed the most appropriate way to deal with a crime.
They involve the suspect admitting their guilt and the cautions stay on their record, but not as a recorded criminal offence.
- The full list of cautions in Oxfordshire between 2006 and 2012
Last night, Thames Valley Police defended its use of cautions in the most serious cases, which it said had been issued after discussions with the Crown Prosecution Service about the “individual facts and merits of a case”.
However, Henley MP John Howell said the figures demonstrated the need for the Government review and Nicola Blackwood, Oxford West and Abingdon MP, said she would be contacting the force for information about the sexual offences against children.
Ms Blackwood said: “We need to know that the police are treating each and every case of this kind with the utmost seriousness and missing no opportunity to prosecute offenders and protect our children.”
Mr Howell said: “Cautions should not be used because they make life cheaper and easier for the police force. They should be used for first time, low-level offences.”
Domestic abuse victim Katrina Teggart, of Witney, said: “It is a disgusting number of cautions.
“A caution is not strong enough, it is a slap on the wrist. A caution is that person getting away with it and that is disrespectful to the victim.”
Assistant Chief Constable Richard Bennett said: “Issuing cautions for serious sexual assaults and rape is extremely rare and is only done when it is felt that a criminal conviction is not achievable.
“This can be for a variety of reasons, for example the age of the offender or the ability of the victim to provide testimony in court.
“In those cases, a caution enables us to make a criminal record of the crime against the offender which in turn ensures that safeguarding measures are in place through Criminal Records Bureau and other checks.”
Donald Findlater, director of the child sexual abuse prevention campaign Stop it Now!, said cases involving young people offending against other young people, offenders with learning difficulties and cases where there was not enough evidence to secure a court conviction could legitimately be dealt with by caution, which would see the perpetrator put on the sex offenders’ register.
Serious offences dealt with by TVP in Oxon with a caution
Administering a Substance with Intent: One in 2006/07. Maximum penalty: 10 years in prison
Arson with Intent to Endanger Life: Three in 2007/08. Maximum penalty: Life imprisonment
Blackmail: One in 2009/10. Maximum penalty: 14 years
Grievous Bodily Harm With Intent: Two, in 2009/10 and 2011/12. Maximum penalty: Life
Possession of Firearms With Intent: Two in 2010/11. Maximum penalty: 10 years
Rape of a Female Child under 13: Two, in 2006/07 and 2008/09. Maximum penalty: Life
Robbery Of Business Property: One in 2007/08. Maximum penalty: Life
Robbery Of Personal Property: 17, including seven in 2006/07. Maximum penalty: Life
- Sexual Assault on a Female Child under 13 – Penetration: Four, two in 2007/08 and two in 2010/11. Maximum penalty: 14 years Source: cps.gov.uk
What are cautions?
Cautions are a way of sanctioning criminals without going to court and are meant to be given for ‘minor’ crimes.
The perpetrator has to admit the offence and agree to be cautioned. If they do not agree, they can be arrested and charged.
Cautions are issued at the discretion of the police or Crown Prosecution Service.
They are not a criminal conviction, but they can be used as evidence of bad character if the person appears before court in the future.
The Government says cautions are given “for minor crimes – e.g. writing graffiti on a bus shelter”.
Cautions will appear on a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check.
- What do you think? Either write to Letters to the Editor, Oxford Mail, Osney Mead, Oxford OX2 0EJ, or comment online