Thousands of crimes were committed by previous offenders in Westminster last year, figures show.
The news comes as the probation watchdog says criminals sentenced to short prison terms are locked in a “merry-go-round” that leaves the public at risk and costs billions of pounds a year.
Ministry of Justice data shows that, of the 2,022 offenders in Westminster who were released from prison, received a non-custodial conviction at court, or were cautioned by police between July 2016 and June 2017, 644 went on to reoffend within a year – 32%.
Between them, they committed 2,502 new offences. They had each committed an average of 19.2 crimes previously.
The rate of reoffending was even higher among juvenile offenders – 51 of the 118 under-18s (43%) went on to commit another crime within a year of being released from custody, given a non-custodial sentence or cautioned.
A report from HM Inspectorate of Probation highlighted shortcomings in the system for managing offenders in England and Wales.
It includes figures showing 64% of adults released from custodial terms of less than 12 months re-offended within a year, committing crime estimated to cost the economy £7 billion to £10 billion per year.
Earlier this year, Justice Secretary David Gauke said there was a “very strong case” for abolishing sentences of six months or less, with some exceptions, such as for violent or sexual crimes.
Chief Inspector of Probation Dame Glenys Stacey said that such a move was “unlikely to be effective without other changes”.
She added: “In my view, a system-wide approach as well as much more purposeful probation supervision is needed.
“Without it, individuals are locked in an expensive merry-go-round of criminal justice processes and the public are left at undue risk.”
From 2015, every criminal given a jail term became subject to statutory supervision and rehabilitation upon release into the community.
Prior to the change, which was designed to reduce re-offending, convicts who had served less than one year did not have to be supervised by probation services.
But the inspection report found there had been “no tangible reduction” in re-offending.
Re-offending rates varied significantly between types of crime for the July 2016 to June 2017 cohort. While figures are not available at a local authority level, across London:
Theft offences: 45% of 11,013 offenders committed a crime within a year of being released from custody, given a non-custodial sentence or cautioned (compared to 52% across England and Wales) Drug offences: 31% of 11,851 offenders (England and Wales: 25%)Violence against the person: 21% of 4,380 offenders (England and Wales: 25%)Possession of weapons: 30% of 2,443 offenders (England and Wales: 31%)Sexual offences: 17% of 819 offenders (England and Wales: 14%)Re-offending rates have remained largely steady over recent years in Westminster, varying from a low of 26% between July 2006 and June 2007 to 36% from July 2008 to June 2009.
Responding to the HM Inspectorate of Probation report, Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Chris Grayling’s decision to extend post-release supervision and place it in the hands of private companies has ended in failure, as the Howard League and others warned it would.
“It has not made the public any safer, but it has trapped tens of thousands of people in the criminal justice system for even longer than necessary. This has blighted lives and put an intolerable strain on prisons, and it should be abandoned immediately.”
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