ROBBERS, rapists and burglars are being let off with cautions from police.

A Freedom of Information request has revealed police handed out cautions for rape, grievous bodily harm, robbery and burglary.

One person had admitted a kidnapping, while eight people had committed an arson which put lives at risk.

A total of 8,130 cautions, reprimands and warnings were given in Essex between April 2010 and March 2011.

There were also warnings for 34 sex offences against children.

However, Essex Police said this was mainly consensual relationships between young people.

A spokesman said: “Cautions administered in relation to sexual activity involving a child under 16 are characteristically to defendants involved in consensual relationships, the largest proportion in their late teens or early twenties.

“These are often reported by third parties, such as parents, and the victim is uncooperative – albeit the offender admits their part.”

Crimes which fall into serious categories must be passed to the Crown Prosecution Service to make the decision about whether a caution should be used. It would not be down to the police to make the decision.

For a caution to be used, the offender must admit their guilt, and the feelings of the victim are taken into consideration.

The police spokesman said: “There is a need to balance the needs of the victim, the interests of justice, and to protect the public by reducing reoffending.”

The most common use of caution was for shoplifting – with 1,345 cases, followed by actual bodily harm, with 1,302.

The figures revealed there were also 78 people cautioned for burglary or attempted burglary.

But police said most of the house burglaries were due to cases where there was a relationship between the offender and the victim.

They also said this would account for some of the 19 cases of grievous bodily harm which were dealt with by way of a caution.

The spokesman said: “The assaults would not have involved sustained attack – for example, a solitary punch to the victim in which the injury sustained was due to the impact of a fall.

“In these circumstances, taking into account the age of the offender and no prior history of offending, disposal by means of caution can be considered proportionate.”

A CPS spokesman said: “The CPS can only consider cases which are referred to it by the police, and the vast majority of cautions are issued without referral to the CPS.

“Where consulted, the CPS will only advise that someone is offered a caution when it is considered to be a proportionate response to the seriousness and consequences of the offence.

“As with all charging decisions, the decision to issue a caution is made based on the individual facts and merits of a case.”