Offenders in Thames Valley were let off with CAUTIONS for crimes including rape, carrying guns and possessing cocaine.
Data released to Get Bucks under Freedom of Information laws shows cautions were used to resolve dozens of sexual crimes since April 2015.
They included 12 cautions given for rape.
There were a total of 42 sexual assaults that ended with a caution being issued. Four of these victims were girls under 13.
This comes despite specific Government instructions to police NOT togive cautions to adults for serious crimes except in “exceptional” circumstances.
The Ministry of Justice told forces to tighten up their use of cautions in 2015 amid fears they were being handed out too easily and letting serious criminals off the hook.
The data shows numerous people caught with drugs were let off with cautions, too.
This extended to people caught with Class A drugs with intent to supply - there were five of these cautions given out for cocaine, two for crack and 10 for other Class A drugs.
There was one case of someone given a caution for carrying a firearm with intent to injure, as well as other gun offences.
Police can give cautions to people aged 10 or over if they admit the offence and agree to the caution.
It doesn’t count as a criminal conviction but it can show up on your record for background checks.
Get Bucks asked Thames Valley Police for records of all crimes dealt with using cautions since April 2015 - when the stricter rules came into effect.
The force turned up 7,982 crimes in total.
Some 1,410 of these were in the four districts of Buckinghamshire, but the force did not identify which ones specifically.
Police were told by the Ministry of Justice in 2015 not to give ‘simple’ cautions - ones with no conditions attached - to adults for serious crimes unless a senior police officer decided there were exceptional circumstances in the case.
Rape and carrying knives are some of the crimes where police have been instructed only to issue cautions in exceptional circumstances.
A spokesman for Thames Valley Police said:
“Thames Valley Police complies with Force and Ministry of Justice’s guidance in relation to adult and youth cautions.
“The sanction for the offence is not only dependent on the offence classification but also takes into consideration the individual circumstances.
“In some cases a caution may be given for a sexual offence. For example, where both the victim and suspect are children, if the offence is non recent or where it is not in the best interests of the victim for a case to go to trial. Where relevant this is in consultation with the victim.
“All cautions for rape are only applied with authorisation from the Crown Prosecution Service and are subject to internal validation to ensure that the caution is the appropriate sanction.
“When applying cautions for drugs offences, again these are applied in certain circumstances. Often if a caution is applied if it is a first offence, the offender might be a youth, and in most cases the offender has admitted the offence and that the quantity of drugs found are for personal use only. Again any caution would be scrutinised by a senior officer.
“Where this is the case the person is more likely to be a user of drugs, and as well as the caution we signpost them to places where they can get support, and it might not be helpful to criminalise a vulnerable person who needs help.
“Again when applying cautions for weapons offences, these are dictated to by the circumstances of the offences. For example the offender might be a young person, it might be their first offence and in some cases the victim might not support a conviction. “Overall whenever a caution is applied for a serious offence it is scrutinised thoroughly.
“Thames Valley Police is committed to dealing with serious criminals and will always seek to charge individuals when it is in the public interest.
Katie Russell of Rape Crisis England & Wales said:
“The use of cautions in sexual offence cases continues to be a cause for concern.
“In the majority of cases involving adult perpetrators, cautions are inappropriate, not least of all because they fail to recognise the gravity of the offence or the long-term, wide-ranging impacts these crimes have on sexual violence victims and survivors.
“Rape Crisis has long called for a review into the use of cautions in sexual offence cases across all police forces and would still welcome such a move.”