Justice secretary Chris Grayling announced plans to scrap police cautions for serious crimes because their use has become ‘simply unacceptable’.
Last year over 160,000 police cautions were issued to adults, including 500 to criminals who had admitted committing serious crimes.
Grayling, speaking at the Tory party conference in Manchester, was assessing his work over the last year and setting out priorities for his department.
The 51-year-old minister said that cautions were simply not tough enough: ‘If you break the law you can expect to face the full force of the law.’
Of the 160,000 cautions, over 3,000 related to child neglect or sexual activities involving children and over 2,400 were issued for possession of an offensive weapon.
The policing and criminal justice minister Damian Green added: ‘Simple cautions can be an appropriate way for the police to deal with low-level offending. However they are not suitable for criminals who commit serious offences like rape or robbery, which can ruin victims’ lives.
We need to sort this out once and for all if the public and victims are going to have confidence in the criminal justice system.’
The new package scraps cautions for serious offences including supplying class A drugs and possession of an offensive weapon.
In a statement, Surrey Police Chief Constable Lynne Owens said the Association of Chief Police Officers ‘fully support the conclusion that the most serious cases should always be heard in court’.
She added: ‘It should be noted that the use of simple cautions for indictable-only offences represent a fraction of 1% of the total issued. Therefore the police service would take the view that these are only used in exceptional circumstances currently.’