Criminal escapes jail sentence – despite 576 previous convictions

A shoplifter who had previously received 576 convictions and cautions received a fine rather than a custodial sentence in 2009, it has emerged.

The criminal – who was first convicted or cautioned in 1959 – holds the record in recent years for the most number of prior offences held while escaping another spell in prison.

Among the offender's previous offences were 232 separate incidences of shoplifting and 123 for drunkenness and disorder.

The case was uncovered by Conservative backbencher Philip Davies, who has been using written questions to ministers to uncover the figures.

Last year the highest number of previous convictions or cautions for someone receiving a sentence other than immediate custody for an indictable offence was 487, including 404 instances of drunkenness and disorder dating back to 1965.

Justice minister Jeremy Wright said: "The government is committed to strengthening sentences, so that they combine robust punishment with requirements that are effective at preventing further offending and which provide reparation to victims and communities.

"To make progress in driving down re-offending rates the government is fundamentally reforming the system."

He said the government was ensuring that every offender released from custody will receive statutory supervision and rehabilitation in the community and pointed out the market is being opened up to a range of rehabilitation providers incentivised by new payment schemes.