PROLIFIC criminals made up nearly half of serious offenders convicted in County Durham last year – suggesting many are caught up in a cycle of reoffending.

The statistics also show fewer than half of those convicted with at least 15 previous convictions or cautions to their name were sent to prison.

In County Durham last year, in 923 of the 2,022 cases (46 per cent) where an adult admitted or was found guilty of an indictable offence – such as theft, violence or rape – the offender had at least 15 previous convictions or cautions, Ministry of Justice data shows.

That included 64 where the offender had 75 or more previous convictions or cautions.

The figures also showed that of the cases where offenders had at least 15 previous convictions or cautions, 429 (46 per cent) resulted in an immediate prison sentence.

Some 102 (11 per cent) resulted in no punishment and 74 (8 per cent) with a fine.

The outcomes for 67 cases were not specified.

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Across England and Wales, the proportion of adult offenders convicted of a serious offence with 15 or more previous convictions or cautions last year was 36 per cent – down from 38 per cent in 2019, but above the 32 per cent in 2010.

Of those cases last year, 45 per cent resulted in an immediate prison sentence.

The Labour party said the "shocking" figures were partly a result of the Government's decision to part-privatise the probation service seven years ago – a move reversed in June this year with renationalisation of the service.

Holly Lynch, Labour's shadow minister for crime reduction and courts, said: "The Government is soft on crime and its causes.

"By failing to reduce crime through rehabilitation in our prisons and our communities, the Tories are putting the public at risk."

She added that Labour would "put victims first by enshrining their rights in law" and focus on criminal rehabilitation to stop the cycle of reoffending.

In its outcome delivery plan for 2021-22, the Ministry of Justice said it would stop reoffending by focusing on interventions such as providing a home, job and access to treatment of substance-misuse.

It said the reunification of the probation service meant staff had the skills to run rehabilitative programmes, preventing crime and increasing supervision of offenders outside prison.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Reducing reoffending is one of our top priorities.

"That’s why we’re investing millions through the Beating Crime Plan to provide robust monitoring, while tackling the drivers of offending such as substance misuse, homelessness and unemployment.”

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