THOUSANDS of Wigan criminals are walking free from court despite having committed up to 100 previous offences, new research suggests.
Figures obtained by the Centre for Crime Prevention show more than half of criminals who had committed between 80 and 99 offences do not end up behind bars, while 70 per cent of those with 10 offences avoided jail.
Greater Manchester also has the second highest number of repeat offenders being sentenced but avoiding prison, with 65,299 offenders being handed non-custodial sentences in 2012 and only around nine per cent of all offenders in the county ending up in jail.
The Centre for Crime Prevention has now called for a dramatic increase in the number of prison sentences handed down by judges after the figures showed eight offenders with 300 or more offences against their name did not go to prison in 2012.
The centre’s director, Peter Cuthbertson, said: “The courts are utterly failing to show they take crime seriously. Prison is the only sure way to protect the public from hardened criminals.
“The most prolific offenders are responsible for a growing percentages of all crime, and locking them up would have a massive impact on the crime rate.
“Criminal justice systems from California and New
Zealand have prevented and deterred crime through three strikes and you’re out rules, but in Britain we lack even 300 strikes and you’re out.”
The figures show criminals must commit 100 or more offences before more than half of them are sent to prison, although 59 per cent of those with between 200 and 249 convictions avoided jail. A total of 82 per cent of repeat offenders who have been before the courts once received a community-based sentence.
The data also shows female repeat offenders were more likely than men to avoid going to prison, although it is possible that male criminals were more likely to commit serious offences which automatically carry a spell behind bars.
The centre, which campaigns for longer sentences and more prison places to protect the public from serious offenders, said automatic sentences of two years or more for people who have committed a set number of offences would dramatically cut reoffending and suggested the Home Office had estimated providing another 80,000 jail cells could save the economy between £30bn and £40bn each year in reduced NHS and court costs.
The centre also says putting around 80,000 repeat offenders currently serving community sentences behind bars would cost £800m, which is less than one per cent of the UK’s total public spending.
Only London had more criminals avoiding jail than Greater Manchester but the highest percentage of repeat offenders being given community-based sentences was in Northumbria, where 96 per cent of those found guilty by the courts were not sent to prison.