HUNDREDS of violent thugs are being let off by “soft” policing across the region - and allowed to simply say 'sorry', or offer compensation, to their victims.

Labour attacked the growing use of “community resolutions” for violent attacks, calling for criminals to be prosecuted, or cautioned, instead.

The party said the measure was intended to be used only for “minor assaults (without injury)”, as well as for anti-social behaviour and other low-level crime.

Yet, in 2012, no fewer than 252 crimes involving serious violence ended in a “community resolution” in North Yorkshire alone, Labour’s investigation revealed.

The category includes; grievous bodily harm (GBH), actual bodily harm, malicious wounding and wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm.

The Northern Echo: violent offences

Northumbria settled 212 such serious offences informally – among more than 10,000 cases across England and Wales - but Cleveland and Durham forces failed to supply figures.

Just two years earlier, North Yorkshire did not apply a single “community resolution” for a crime involving serious violence – and there were only 13 in 2011.

The number is stable in Northumbria (199 in 2011, 288 in 2010), but has almost doubled nationally since 2009, when there were 5,173.

Yvette Cooper, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, linked that increase to sharp cuts to officer numbers, saying: “These figures are extremely serious.

"Offenders who admit to serious and violent crimes - including knife crime, domestic violence, and serious assault - are increasingly being let off with no criminal record, no justice, and not even a caution."

But North Yorkshire force hit back, insisting it did “follow national guidance in relation to this procedure”.

Leanne McConnell, the force’s head of criminal justice, said every case was considered on its own merits, taking into account “the history of the offender and the victims’ wishes”.

She said: “This allows the victim to have a greater voice in what happens to the offender and directs the offender to provide some form of reparation in respect of their offending behaviour."

In total, North Yorkshire resolved no fewer than 509 violent offences informally last year, by an apology, an offer of compensation, or an agreement to clear up any damage.

Many were cases of ‘assault without injury’ (202), followed by ‘public fear/alarm/distress’ (37) – but there were also incidents of ‘racially aggravated offences’ (nine).

The Cleveland force said it did not supply any figures to Labour because it “only started doing restorative justice this month”.

Durham Police said the restorative approaches scheme has been proven to work

A spokesman added: "It is not a soft option and can lead to emotional exchanges but the volunteer facilitators are trained to make sure the meetings get the maximum benefit for everyone involved."