POLICE cautions have been handed down for 1,400 offences including sex crimes, drug incidents, violent crime and burglary, the Echo can reveal.
Figures show cautions were given for 515 violent crimes, 232 drug offences, 19 incidents of burglary and even seven sex crimes during 2012.
The information has prompted concerns that some criminals are escaping charges and simply let off with a warning.
But police were quick to point out the cautions are only given out while following strict guidelines from the Home Office.
Warnings have also been handed down for criminal damage and vehicles crimes.
Earlier this month, the Echo revealed how mum Rebecca Bradshaw was left angry after a driver who knocked down her three-year-old son was given a warning.
Ms Bradshaw branded a decision not to prosecute the motorist as “disgusting” after son Jason was left in hospital with a fractured leg.
Jason had been walking across a pelican crossing at Seaside Lane, in Easington Colliery, with dad, Steven, 35, when he was hit by the car.
Rebecca, 28, received a letter telling her the motorist had been warned for driving without due care and attention and had taken part in a one-day approved driving skills course.
She said: “They should definitely have charged the driver and brought about a prosecution.
“I don’t understand how the police can think this is the best course of action.”
But police say cautions are only handed out after each case is considered individually.
Chief Superintendent Kay Blyth, of Sunderland Area Command, said: “All police forces operate under the same strict guidelines from the Home Office in relation to the use of cautions. Cautions are used for adult and young offenders, predominantly in cases involving first-time, low-level offending, and can provide prompt resolution for victims.
“Each case is considered on its merits before a decision to caution is made. Before deciding whether to issue a caution, the views of the victim will be considered, as well as the specifics of the offence and whether it is in the public interest to do so.
“The age and offending history of the person concerned is also used in the decision-making process.
“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 may involve referral of the case to the Crown Prosecution Service for advice.
“Recent changes to legislation now give police the opportunity to add conditions to a caution, such as apologising to the victim and making good any loss or damage caused. Offenders may be also be directed into rehabilitative or educational services to tackle the causes of offending behaviour reducing the likelihood of re-offending.”
•Violent crime: 515
•Other crime: 437
•Sexual offences: 7
•Vehicle crime: 19
•Drug crime: 232