The majority of people convicted for the first time of violent crime are walking free, new figures show
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By Steven Swinford, Senior Political Correspondent
9:00PM BST 12 Oct 2013
Only one in 10 violent criminals convicted for first-time offences is jailed, official figures show.
In five years almost 81,000 violent offenders have been allowed to walk free amid concerns about “soft” justice.
Just a third of first-time sex offenders have been given custodial sentences, while fewer than a fifth of offenders who committed robberies have been sent to prison.
Philip Davies, the Conservative MP who obtained the figures, said: “We need to be much tougher on crime and send more people to prison.
“People will be appalled to see that offenders who are committing very serious offences are not being jailed.”
In the past five years, more than half a million first-time offenders convicted for violence, sexual offences, burglary, robbery, theft, drug offences and fraud have avoided jail. Just 40,000 have been sent to prison.
Last year 168,000 first-time offenders, equivalent to 95.7 per cent of those convicted, were given community sentences in England and Wales.
Just 5,483 of the 15,900 sex offenders were jailed, along with 988 of the 12,309 violent criminals and 350 of the 1,641 people convicted of robbery.
The convictions for violence are recorded as “violence against the person”, which covers more than 30 offences including grievous bodily harm, assault, kidnap, child abduction, harassment and threats to kill.
There has been a decline in the proportion of people being sent to prison for robbery and fraud over the past five years.
The figures also show that women are treated more leniently than men.
Last year, just two per cent of women were given immediate custodial sentences, compared with 5.1 per cent of men.
Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, has pledged to toughen up community sentences as part of his “rehabilitation revolution”.
Criminals who avoid jail face being tracked by satellite 24 hours a day and banned from some areas or activities such as drinking alcohol.
Community sentences include “compulsory” punishments, such as forcing offenders to pay fines, clear litter or keep a curfew.
Mr Davies believes that tougher sentencing is needed to maintain public trust.
Jeremy Wright, the justice minister, said: “People who commit serious violent and sexual offences deserve to feel the full force of the law – whether it is their first offence or not – and can face life in prison.
“There are very tough sentences available to the judiciary for such offences, and offenders are more likely to go to prison now than they were a decade ago.
“But sentencing in individual cases is always a matter for independent judges, based on the full facts of the case before them.”
Earlier this year, figures showed that 38 rapists — eight adults and 30 juveniles — were given community sentences in 2011, the latest year for which figures were available.
In July last year, a 76-year-old man convicted of raping his niece when she was just 11 years old walked free from court because the court accepted that he was suffering from an age-related mental illness.
William D’Arcy, from Hull, also raped another girl aged 10, in a series of sexual assaults which spanned more than a decade. He was brought to justice more than 30 years after the crimes took place.
In April last year, a 25-year-old man avoided jail after admitting he raped a woman when he was drunk.
Lee Maddock, from Rossendale, Lancs, was handed a two-year community order, with two years’ supervision and an alcohol treatment programme at Burnley Crown Court.