North East criminals most likely to avoid jail

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CRIMINALS in the North East are being spared jail after more suspended prison sentences were handed down than anywhere else in the country.

According to a report out today, more than four in 10 prison sentences handed down by courts in the Northumbria area were suspended in 2012.

That is up from just three per cent in 2002.

The area tops the league for having the highest share of criminals who are sentenced to jail, only to have their sentences suspended.

The latest figures come from the Centre for Crime Prevention.

Report author, Peter Cuthbertson claims the statistics reveal “a failure of public protection”.

He added: “The Blair Government’s decision to remove the requirement that prison sentences be suspended only in exceptional circumstances, has led to this explosion in numbers.

“This means tens of thousands of killers, thugs, sex offenders and fraudsters are avoiding prison and re-offending hundreds of times.

“As they explode in numbers, suspended sentences are failing to control crime and protect the public.

“Once a curious anomaly in the criminal justice system, the injustice and misery they cause is growing to alarming levels.”

The report calls for the abolition of suspended sentences.

In one case, reported in July 2012, Anthony Crawford, of Elmway, Chester-le-Street, received a suspended sentence despite sparking pandemonium when he threw a firework at anti-jubilee protesters as they gathered for a rally in Newcastle city centre.

It landed in the hood of a 19-year-old man who was left with burns after it exploded on his shoulder and set fire to his hair.

He was left partially deafened when the firework perforated his eardrum.

After admitting one charge of assault by beating, Crawford, 22, escaped a prison term after magistrates handed him a 15-week suspended sentence.

Crawford’s legal team had argued he was handed the lit firework before throwing it into the crowd, and he had not intended to cause injury.

Crawford admitted one charge of assault by beating and one count of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to cause fear, or provoke unlawful violence.