County sees 82-fold rise in number of criminals let off prison

Hertfordshire has seen a higher increase in the number of criminals handed suspended prison sentences than anywhere else in the country, new figures have shown.

A Freedom of Information request about suspended sentences – a non-custodial punishment given to convicts as a warning not to commit further crimes – reveals Herts has seen an 82-fold rise in the number given out since 2002.

In figures released today by the Centre for Crime Prevention, the county comes out top because the number of suspended sentences given has rocketed from 10 in 2002, to 812 a decade later.

A spokesman for the organisation, which is calling for the abolition of suspended sentences due to the failings nationwide, said: “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, taking a bomb into a hotel, running a brothel, benefit fraud, burglary, faking one’s death, strangling a cat and sex with a dog.

“They are also failing to stop reoffending.

“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.”

Nationwide, more than 30% of those given a suspended sentence reoffend within a year.

Herts’ most recent data shows that 36% of all prison sentences are now suspended, compared to just 1% 12 years ago.

Nearby London doesn’t even make the highest 20, with an 18-fold rise.

Hertfordshire’s rise is even 5% higher than the national average, which has risen by 31% over the same period.