Research from the Centre for Crime Prevention reveals an astonishing number of serious and repeat offenders’ prison sentences are being suspended by the courts.
Suspended sentences are now handed out for tens of thousands of violent, property and sexual offences each year, ranging from spitting at people to manslaughter.
They include throwing fireworks into a crowd, theft, molesting children, assault, running a brothel, benefit fraud, burglary, faking one's death, strangling a cat and sex with a dog.
One judge claims they are being used “A bit like confetti”.
11,670 serious offenders had their prison sentence suspended in 2012/13 despite more than 10 previous convictions or cautions.
9,052 serious offenders had their prison sentence suspended in 2012/13 despite 15 or more previous conviction or cautions.
They are also failing to stop reoffending. Data from Freedom of Information requests reveals there were 110,745 cases of criminals sentenced last year despite one or more previous suspended sentences.
There were 215 examples of criminals being found guilty despite 10 or more suspended sentences.
Almost one in three (31%) prison sentences were suspended in 2012 – up from 2% a decade ago.
Victoria, Australia is currently in the process of abolishing failing suspended sentences.
In light of similar failings here, England and Wales should do the same.
Peter Cuthbertson, author of the report and Director of the Centre for Crime Prevention, said:
“Thugs and sex offenders who think they are finally going to prison are overjoyed when find out that the prison sentence has been suspended. It makes a mockery of justice for victims and puts the public at great risk. These figures show that criminals given suspended sentences go on to commit hundreds of thousands of crimes. Suspended sentences should be abolished.”
The key findings of the report are:
There were 11,670 cases of serious offenders having their prison sentence suspended in 2012/13 despite more than 10 previous convictions or cautions.
There were 8,444 cases of serious offenders having their prison sentence suspended in 2012/13 despite 15 or more previous conviction or cautions.
In 2002, 2,519 prison sentences (2% of all prison sentences) were suspended. This rose to 44,644 (31% of all prison sentences) by 2012.
For violence against the person, the figure rose 14-fold from 504 in 2002 to 7,288 in 2012 (35% of all prison sentences for these violent offenders)
For sex offenders the figure rose 8-fold from 58 to 488 (1 in 8 of all prison sentences for sex offenders)
For burglars and other serious property offenders the figure rose 18-fold from 778 to 14,060.
Almost half (45%) of prison sentences for fraud were fully suspended.
110,745 (22%) of the 510,065 sentences passed by courts in 2012/13 were to criminals who had previously had at least one prison sentence suspended. (There were 66,443 individual offenders in this category, some of which were sentenced more than once in this year.)
48,108 were given to those with 2 or more previous suspended sentences; 22,776 were given to those with 3 or more; 5,678 were given to those with 5 or more; 215 were given to those with 10 or more; and 17 were given to those with 15 or more.
34,733 (35%) of the 100,335 prison sentences handed down in 2012/13 were given to criminals who had previously had at least one prison sentence suspended.
16,906 prison sentences were given to those who had previously been given 2 or more suspended sentences (10,865 individual offenders); 8,444 to those previously given 3 or more; 2,303 to those previously given 5 or more; 650 to those previously given 7 or more; and 96 to those previously given 10 or more.
Those given suspended sentences between 2007 and 2011 have already reoffended 202,845 times.
Click here to read the report, including a full regional breakdown and examples of the soft use of suspended sentences https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B25IaOtJKlvwam5mREhqU3JQUVE/edit?pli=1