Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, announces plans for legislation to ban police from giving simple cautions to repeat offenders and those who commit serious crimes.
A crackdown on lenient out-of-court punishments for criminals who commit serious offences like supplying Class A drugs and making child abuse images could lead to 14,000 fewer cautions being issued each year.
Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, said police would also be banned from handing out â€œsimpleâ€ cautions to offenders who already have a conviction or caution for a similar crime within the previous two years.
In 2012 more than 168,000 adults were given a caution by officers, meaning that they admitted their guilt immediately and received a criminal record but escaped having to appear in court, pay a fine or serve a prison sentence.
This total included 1,560 cases of child cruelty or neglect, 183 of taking, permitting or distributing indecent pictures of children, seven of child prostitution and pornography, 54 of supplying a Class A drug, 962 of possessing a knife, and 1,543 of possessing a weapon.
In addition, 493 criminals who committed serious indictable-only offences, which would normally have to be heard at a crown court, got away with a police caution.
There were also 9,168 offenders in 2012-13 who were cautioned despite having one or more cautions or convictions for an offence of the same type in the previous two years.
Among them were 52 serial burglars, five repeat sex offenders and 1,276 people who had a previous record for drug offences.
The Government estimates that its tougher approach, which will be enshrined in legislation due to be introduced into Parliament shortly, could cut the number of cautions handed out each year by more than 8 per cent.
Under the changes, police will be banned from issuing a simple caution, which carries no conditions, for the most serious crimes except in â€œexceptionalâ€ circumstances.
Only an officer of superintendent rank or above will be able to sign off a simple caution for these offences.
Mr Grayling said: â€œThe police do a vital job and I am not looking to remove their discretion, but the public and victims have a right to expect that people who commit serious crimes should be brought before a court.
â€œI have grave concerns about cases Iâ€™ve heard about where offenders receive multiple cautions or receive a caution for a serious offence. That is why we have worked with the police to restrict their use.
â€œWe are on the side of people who work hard and want to get on, and I am clear, if you break the law you will face the consequences.â€
The number of cautions handed out by police peaked at 235,600 in 2007 before falling to 188,000 in 2011 and 168,300 in 2012.
There have been growing concerns that overstretched forces are using them too frequently to cut down on paperwork and allowing serious criminals to escape proper punishment.
Magistrates warned last year that the use of cautions had got â€œout of handâ€, robbing victims of their chance for compensation and to see the offender in court.
Offenders who accept a police cautions do not have to disclose it if asked by an employer, but the record is stored on the Police National Computer and is flagged in criminal records checks.
Crackdown on lenient punishments will see 14,000 fewer cautions issued each year