This week's MP's column comes from Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley

THE Ministry of Justice recently answered some questions I had asked nearly a year ago about repeat offenders. Given the contents I imagine they might not really have wanted to release the information at all. 

The figures they finally gave me certainly shed an unwelcome light on the state of our justice system – an area some people will know has always been a concern to me. I had asked about offenders who had committed the same offence - time and time again – who were not sent to prison for committing the offence on the most recent occasion. 

In other words, those in the premier league of offending being given a get out of jail free card for repeatedly breaking the law by committing the same crime over and over. The numbers are mind boggling. Someone with 19 previous convictions for possessing a knife was not sent to prison for carrying one on the 20th occasion.

That person had been sent to prison eight times previously for carrying a knife but somehow not for doing it for the 20th time. A person who had committed 35 previous assaults was not given a prison sentence for attacking someone again. 

A persistent burglar managed to avoid jail despite committing his 58th burglary. Given the number of burglaries that go undetected, goodness only knows how many other burglaries that person was really responsible for either. 

Then there was a fraudster who evaded custody notwithstanding the 56 previous fraud offences to their name - as did someone with 17 previous convictions for criminal damage and another offender with 44 earlier drug offences.Thirteen sexual assaults wasn’t even enough to get another person sent to prison. There was also a thief who had managed to rack up 201 thefts and was then given a paltry fine for committing their 202nd offence.

These figures from the Ministry of Justice only cover the number of previous convictions where an offender has committed exactly the same offence again. However, you can be sure that most of these offenders will also have a collection of other different offences on their criminal record too which makes this all even worse.

These sorts of figures are not new but the fact they keep occurring year in and year out is as unbelievable as it is outrageous. 

A great opportunity to do something about these ridiculous sentences comes in the form of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which is passing through Parliament at the moment.

I tabled amendments that, I believe, would make the Bill better and certainly ensure that we crack down on these persistent offenders.

One of my proposals is to introduce a sentencing escalator.

This would mean that if someone committed the same crime again they would receive a harsher penalty than they had previously been given and their sentences would just keep on increasing each time.

If that was not possible because of maximum sentences in place then they would receive the highest possible penalty for the offence every time they commit that offence again. 

Without this in place, these career criminals might as well take their chances by reoffending as there is every possibility they will get off with the equivalent of a slap across the wrist as these figures show.

This Government clearly already supports the principle of a sentencing escalator as they set the pattern of Covid fines to increase for additional breaches. They were quite clear that a subsequent breach would be treated more harshly. 

In the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill they are also making it harder for repeat offenders to avoid minimum sentences for committing further knife and burglary offences. 

This is all good - but why can’t it apply to all offending?

You wouldn’t give a child detention one day for something and then for doing the very same thing again the next day give them a verbal warning – so why are we regularly doing the equivalent of this with criminals?

I was not surprised that when an opinion poll was conducted it found that 90 per cent of people supported the idea of the sentencing escalator. It is time we saw some common sense in the criminal justice system.

Protecting the public from persistent offenders should always be a higher priority than the rights of criminals.