The number of criminals being given suspended sentences has rocketed in West Yorkshire in the last decade amid fears serious and repeat offenders are being allowed to escape justice.
A total of 1,498 suspended sentences were handed down by the county’s courts compared with just 89 in 2002 - a 17-fold rise, according to new figures from the Centre for Crime Prevention think-tank.
It means 27 per cent of all prison sentences in West Yorkshire were suspended in 2012 compared with one per cent in 2002. In some parts of the country the number of such sentences - where criminals only serve the prison term if they fail to meet certain requirements - has increased 82 times over since 2002.
Across Yorkshire, North Yorkshire also saw a 17-fold increase from 27 to 454 suspended sentences, and South Yorkshire have seen numbers go up 10 times over.
Nationally, the think-tank says “tens of thousands of violent property and sexual offences each year, ranging from spitting at people to manslaughter” are subject to such sentences.
It says 11,670 serious offenders had a prison sentence suspended in 2012/13 despite more than 10 previous convictions or cautions.
Report author Peter Cuthbertson said: “Thugs and sex offenders who think they are finally going to prison are overjoyed when they find out that the prison sentence has been suspended.
“It makes a mockery of justice for victims and puts the public at great risk.
“These figures show that criminals given suspended sentences go on to commit hundreds of thousands of crimes.
“Suspended sentences should be abolished.”
The report claims the sentences are also failing to stop criminals committing more crimes, with 110,745 offenders sentenced last year despite having previous suspended sentences.
Justice Minister Jeremy Wright said since 2010, criminals are more likely to go to prison, and for longer.
He added: “In the year to June 2013 48,000 offenders didn’t ‘walk free’ but went to prison - four times as many as got a suspended sentence.”