04/04/2013 06:52 BST | Updated 04/06/2013 06:12 BST

Cautions for Serious and Repeat Offenders Under Review

If you commit a crime, you should be caught and punished. That punishment should be fair, should satisfy the victim of the crime, and should allow others to have confidence in the criminal justice system.

Cautions have a role to play in this. They allow the police to deal quickly and proportionately with low-level, often first-time offending which does not merit prosecution at court, freeing the police to spend more time on tackling serious crime. They can also provide reparation and a prompt resolution for victims.

But the government has concerns about some cases where cautions have been given to criminals who have committed multiple or serious crimes. Serious and repeat criminals should not expect to escape with a caution and the public and victims have a right to expect such people who have committed a crime to be brought before a court.

This is why we are launching a review into cautions, which will scrutinise the way in which 'simple' cautions are used.

The proportion of offenders given a caution for carrying a knife or an offensive weapon has reduced in the past two years but it is still the case that one in five offenders get a caution for carrying a knife or an offensive weapon. The proportion of offenders given a caution for sexual offences has fallen from 27.8% in 2007, to 20.4% in 2011. But this is still too high.

We want the public to have faith and confidence in the justice system, which is why we will be working closely with the police and other criminal justice professionals to look at any changes which might be needed to guidance or legislation.

The review will look at reasons why multiple cautions are given to some criminals, and whether there are some offence types where simple cautions are unacceptable. It will look at the difference in the use of cautions by different police forces and whether increased scrutiny is needed to ensure they are used consistently

Cautions always need to be used appropriately. If they are seen as simply a soft option, they are not doing their job. The government will not accept that situation, so if the review suggests action, we will take it as soon as possible.