Hundreds of criminals avoid jail despite string of previous convictions

Photo Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

About 40% of cases in which offenders had at least 15 previous convictions or cautions resulted in an immediate prison sentence - Credit: Archant

Hundreds of Suffolk criminals avoided going to prison for further offences despite having a string of previous convictions or cautions to their name, figures have revealed.

Ministry of Justice data showed that 479 (34%) of 1,401 adults convicted of an indictable offence last year had a record of at least 15 previous convictions or cautions – and at least 75 previous convictions or cautions in 22 case.

Of the cases involving offenders with at least 15 previous convictions or cautions, 192 (40%) resulted in an immediate prison sentence.

About 5% (26) resulted in no punishment, while 18% (88) were dealt with by way of a fine. Outcomes were not specified for 70 cases.

Nationally, the proportion of adult offenders convicted of an offence triable on indictment, with 15 or more previous convictions or cautions, was 36% – down from 38% in 2019, but up from 32% in 2010.

Of those cases, 45% resulted in an immediate prison sentence.

The Labour party said the "shocking" figures were partly a result of the Government's decision to part-privatise the probation service seven years ago – a move reversed in June.

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In its outcome delivery plan for 2021-22, the Ministry of Justice said it would stop reoffending by focusing on interventions such as providing a home, job and access to treatment for substance misuse.

It said the reunification of the probation service meant staff had the skills to run rehabilitative programmes – preventing crime and increasing supervision outside prison.

Charity Unlocked, which helps people dealing with the stigma of a criminal record, said people also needed support with physical and mental health and wellbeing, as well as housing and employment.

Chief executive Angela Cairns added: "Having to disclose a criminal record is a barrier to access those things – local authorities are permitted to exclude people with unspent convictions from social housing and more than half of employers admit they would discriminate against someone with a criminal record."

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Reducing reoffending is one of our top priorities.

"That’s why we’re investing millions through the Beating Crime Plan to provide robust monitoring, while tackling the drivers of offending such as substance misuse, homelessness and unemployment.”

A Suffolk Constabulary spokeswoman said: “Suffolk police work closely with our partners to do all we can to prevent reoffending, particularly with repeat offenders.”

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