Cautions are at their lowest level for 30 years and offenders are going to prison for longer than ever before, new Ministry of Justice figures have revealed.
The use of cautions has fallen by more than a third from 260,513 in the year to June 2010 to 169,094 in the year to June 2014.
Meanwhile, the length of the average prison sentence handed down has risen to 15.6 months in the year to June 2014, up from 13.8 months in year ending June 2010.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said on 20 November: “Criminals should never get away with little more than a slap on the wrist, no matter how minor their crime. Every crime should have a consequence and the public expect offenders to be punished accordingly, instead of walking away scot-free.”
The figures show that all out of court disposals – police sanctions used for dealing with lower-level crimes – have also plummeted by 40 per cent since 2010. There were 301,839 given last year compared to 499,769 in 2010.
The government announced earlier in November that it is planning to scrap cautions and is now piloting a new approach for a year in the Staffordshire, West Yorkshire and Leicestershire police force areas that includes the use of a suspended prosecution, under which an offender will have to face court if they fail to comply with one or more conditions, such as paying a fine or attending a rehabilitation course.
Palmers’ partner Jeremy Sirrell, who leads the firm’s criminal defence team, said: “The government is adopting a much tougher stance on sentencing, as these statistics clearly show.
“While few would argue against offenders receiving appropriate punishment for their crime, a criminal conviction for even a minor offence has the potential to change someone’s life forever, by damaging their personal and professional reputation.
“With this in mind, access to expert advice is essential as soon as someone becomes subject to a police investigation, as the progress of the inquiry often depends on things said or done while someone is in police custody.
“By working only with clients on a private basis, we are able to devote the time and attention necessary to best advise and represent those under investigation or charged with offences, with the focus on achieving the best outcomes. For more information on our Criminal Defence services, please contact us.”