THE number of violent offenders escaping criminal charges in the Worcester area has almost doubled in the last four years.

Figures released to your Worcester News under the Freedom of Information Act show the number of people in south Worcestershire given a police caution for violent crimes has risen from 306 in 2004/5 to 566 in 2007/8.

The sharpest increase is in the number of cautions for actual bodily harm (ABH), which rose from 165 in 2004/5 to 250 in 2007/8.

Cautions for assaults without injury also went up over the same period from 38 to 121.

One Worcester solicitor, who asked not to be named, reacted furiously to our revelations.

He said: “I think it is absolutely outrageous. Reading these figures, the more serious offence you commit the more likely you are to be cautioned.

“The police continue to charge petty offending such as begging on a regular basis.

“I wonder how many victims of serious assault or burglary would be happy to know police are cautioning people.

“Whatever the police say it is clearly a funding issue.”

But Detective Chief Inspector Jerry Reakes-Williams, of south Worcestershire police, said many factors were considered before a decision to caution is made. “It would be extremely rare for finance to be one of those considerations – and it would certainly never be the most important consideration for either the police or the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service), which decides on what action to take in more serious instances,” he said.

The figures also show that cautions were given for threat or conspiracy to murder, robbery and rape.

Your Worcester News spoke to the sister of a teenager who says he was attacked by a gang of youths.

Andrew Wardlaw, aged 17, is still waiting for justice after he says he was repeatedly kicked by the gang at Malvern Laser Bowl in Spring Lane North, Malvern, in March this year. He was taken to hospital where he required surgery to re-wire his broken jaw.

His 27-year-old sister Emma Cullen, of Kempsey, near Worcester, said: “A caution is not going to stop people, it is disgusting people are getting cautions for assaults.

“A caution does not mean anything these days, it is just a slap on the wrist.”

Mr Reakes-Williams said reasons for cautions included ages and previous police history of the victim and suspect; seriousness of the offence; the level of violence used; views of the victim; prevalence of the offence in the area; and public interest.

“It is also important to remember when looking at the data provided in response to this Freedom of Information request that you are not necessarily comparing like with like as legislation changes periodically,” he said.

“Drawing conclusions from these statistics without understanding the context and circumstances of individual cases can lead to misinterpretation.

“Each case has to be judged on its merits, although it is not possible to go into individual crime records to provide examples.

“When such statistics as these are published in the public domain, they can - unfortunately - cause the fear of crime to increase and the confidence in the Criminal Justice system to be reduced when neither of these are justified by the facts.”