Campaigners hit out at police cautions for ‘serious’ crimes

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WEARSIDERS caught carrying a deadly weapon, Class A drugs and committing sexual assault have received police cautions, new figures reveal.

Details obtained by the Echo show that in the last 12 months, Sunderland police handed out more than 221 cautions every month.

The majority of cautions were given for minor offences but some were given for more serious crimes.

These include:

* Six for possession of a knife or pointed article.

* Two for having a knife or pointed article in school.

* 10 for possessing an offensive weapon.

* 10 racially aggravated harassment.

* One for having sex with a girl aged 13 to 15.

* Two for sexual activity involving a female under 16.

* Three for sexual assault of a female.

* 223 for possession of a controlled drug, including cocaine, heroin and cannabis.

Police argue they only hand out cautions for serious offences after victims’ views are considered and it is in the public interest.

But campaigner John Johnson, 58, has hit out at the seriousness of some of the offences that have been dealt cautions.

John, of Ryhope, has been tirelessly campaigning for stiffer sentencing for killers after his son Kevin, 22, was stabbed to death outside his Pennywell home in May 2007.

As part of his campaign, John has also backed calls for mandatory prison sentences to be given to criminals carrying knives.

He said: “Some of these offences should be getting more severe punishments than cautions – prison sentences definitely.

“That’s one of the things we’re fighting for for carrying knives and weapons. If you got four years’ mandatory prison sentence then perhaps people would think twice before putting a knife in their pocket.

“This doesn’t send that message and people won’t listen to it.”

Steven Turnbull, 37, of Grangetown, has also hit out at the cautions dealt out.

The dad was slashed across the face and robbed of hundreds of pounds in a terrifying knife attack as he walked through a Houghton subway last month.

He said: “I wouldn’t be happy at all if this was all the people who did this to me got. I expect at least a jail term.

“A caution is just a slap on the wrist and an easy way out.”

Temporary Chief Superintendent Dave Wormald, head of Northumbria Police’s criminal justice department, defended the police’s use of cautions.

He said: “All police forces operate under strict guidelines from the Home Office in relation to the use of cautions.

“Cautions are used for adult offenders predominantly in cases involving first time low level offending.

“Before any decision to issue a caution is made, the views of the victim will be considered, and a caution only issued if it is in the public interest to do so.

“Cautions are rarely issued for more serious offences.

“However, if it is appropriate for a caution to be considered for a serious offence, the decision to caution will only be reached after consultation with the victim, and a referral of the case to the Crown Prosecution Service for a decision.”