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100,000 'hard core' criminals have at least 15 convictions – and the number is rising
Ministry of Justice figures show worrying rise in hardened criminalsConvictions for serious and more minor offences see riseAverage prison sentence length jumps dramatically in 10 yearsPrison expert says public is at risk from repeat offenders
17:39 GMT, 21 February 2013
00:52 GMT, 22 February 2013
Hardened: Ministry of Justice figures show a worrying rise in repeat offenders. The number of criminals with 15 or more previous convictions or cautions is now one in three. Picture posed by model
A hardened core of 100,000 criminals convicted last year already had at least 15 offences to their names.
This group of serial offenders is growing and now contains more than one in three of all criminals coming before the courts.
Worryingly, official figures show that less than four in ten were sent to jail last year, despite their lengthy criminal records.
The number of offenders with such prolific records has shot up by more than 50 per cent in a decade.
In 2002 they were responsible for less than one in five crimes annually and numbered some 64,000.
But by last year that proportion was 33 per cent – a record high – and their numbers topped 103,000.
They carry out over a quarter of all violent crimes, more than 40 per cent of burglaries and one in five drugs offences, according to the Ministry of Justice which published the figures yesterday.
The findings prompted demands for tougher jail terms to ensure the public is protected from unrepentant criminals.
Peter Cuthbertson, director of the Centre for Crime Prevention think-tank said: ‘This suggests we could cut crime dramatically by locking up more serious, repeat offenders.
‘They are the ones who are responsible for a fast-growing percentage of all crimes.
‘Unfortunately the number of prison places hasn’t kept pace at all with the number of serious, repeat offenders, and last year only one in four serious offences led to a prison sentence.’
Out of court warnings, penalties and cautions, September 2002 to September 2012
Offenders receiving an indeterminate custodial sentence and average custodial sentence length for all offenders; September 2002 to September 2012
A detailed breakdown of offending published yesterday showed the shocking annual toll on the public of the country’s most prolific criminals.
A total of 311,286 offenders were convicted last year for indictable – or serious – offences.
3 YEARS FOR 100 CRIMES
A prolific burglar carried out nearly 100 offences during an eight-year crime spree.
Kenny Ward, pictured, pleaded guilty to two counts of residential burglary earlier this month and was jailed for three years.
But the court also heard the shocking extent of his criminal past which was taken into account.
Croydon Crown Court was told he admitted to police a further 92 offences dating back to 2005, each of which was a similar break-in or act of thievery. In addition, he already has 20 previous convictions on top of those crimes.
The 42-year-old from Croydon targeted homes in his home town, Bromley and Sutton in south London.
He stole expensive iPads and laptop computers, as well as jewellery including wedding rings and other items of sentimental value.
The court heard he sold the goods and used the money to fund his drug habit. His previous convictions include burglary, theft and forced entry into premises.
The offences include violent crimes, sex crimes, burglary, robbery and drug offences as well as more serious motoring offences.
A decade ago, in 2002, prolific offenders with 15 or more previous crimes were responsible for 19.4 per cent of all serious crimes – some 64,600 individual offences.
By 2007 the proportion rose to one in four and their crimes numbered 78,000.
But last year they made up one in three of all criminals coming before the courts – a total of 103,035.
They were responsible for around 12,500 violent attacks, 10,200 burglaries and 52,000 acts of thievery or handling stolen goods.
In addition, they carried out 13,250 drug crimes, more than 500 sex offences and around 8,000 uncategorised offences.
Despite their lengthy records, just 39 per cent were jailed on the spot, while the remainder were given community sentences, suspended jail terms, fines or lesser punishments.
By contrast, the number of first-time offenders is falling sharply.
There were 187,700 offenders with no existing record caught last year, a fall of 12 per cent in a year and down more than 40 per cent in five years.
Positive signs include a fall in the number of cautions issued by the police – down 12 per cent in a year to 205,700.
Ministers defended the figures, pointing to sharp falls in crime in recent years.
Justice Minister Jeremy Wright said: ‘Crime is falling and the use of cautions is now at its lowest level for over a decade.
‘A greater proportion of convicted criminals are going to prison and their sentences are longer than ever before.
‘However, reoffending rates have barely changed in a decade and we cannot go on doing the same thing and expecting a different result.
‘That is why we are pressing ahead with major reforms that will tackle this problem.’
Caged: Average sentence lengths have jumped sharply in the last ten years