John Fassenfelt, chairman of the Magistratesâ€™ Association, has written to Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary (pictured), to call for an inquiry into police use of cautions,
Thousands of violent criminals, sex offenders and burglars were let off with a caution amid concerns from magistrates that police were infringing upon sentencing powers which should be left to the courts.
John Fassenfelt, chairman of the Magistratesâ€™ Association, has written to Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, to call for an inquiry into police use of cautions, which can help stretched forces cut down on paperwork.
â€œIt seems to have got out of hand, to be honest,â€ he said.
Cautions were â€œconstantly being used for violent and sexual offencesâ€, he added, robbing victims of their chance for compensation and to see the offender in court.
Mr Fassenfelt went on: â€œWhen you see continuous cautions being given out you do begin to think the police are using them for some other reason.
â€œI can understand to a degree that theyâ€™re cutting down on paperwork, but surely victims deserve some paperwork?â€
One in four (27%) criminals responsible for â€œviolence against the personâ€ was let off with a caution in the 12 months to June last year, along with one in five (19%) sex offenders and one in 10 (11%) burglars, Ministry of Justice figures showed.
More than 14,000 violent criminals, 1,400 sex offenders and 2,900 burglars avoided court after being let off with cautions.
Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, said: â€œPolice cautions have fallen by 42% and out of court disposals by 38% over the past five years.
â€œI am already looking into how police cautions are being used.
â€œWe shouldn’t remove the right for police officers to exercise discretion but the public are right to expect that people who commit serious crimes will be brought before a court where very tough sentences are available.”
It comes after a report by the Centre for Crime Prevention found earlier this month that more than 90,000 of the worst serial offenders avoided jail last year as the numbers soared by a quarter in five years.
They were handed cautions, fines and community sentences by police and the courts after going back to crime.
Campaigners said there were now more serious, repeat offenders on the streets than there were jail places, as the figures fuelled fears that the criminal justice system is soft on repeat offenders.
The number of repeat offenders with at least 15 previous convictions or cautions rose by a third last year to 108,119 from 81,204 in 2006/7, while the number with at least 10 previous convictions or cautions was up by a quarter from 112,956 to 140,168.
One in four violent criminals are avoiding court as magistrates warned the excessive use of cautions by police has â€œgot out of handâ€.