Hundreds of Devon and Cornwall sex offenders cautioned

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Hundreds of sex offenders have received police cautions in Devon and Cornwall rather than face court, according to figures obtained by the BBC.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request revealed more than 500 cautions have been issued in the past six years.

Police say cautions for serious offences are only issued under certain circumstances.

The figures include 28 cautions for rapes. All but one of the cases involved a victim under the age of 16.

Resources 'stretched'

Intended for "low-level offending", cautions are issued at the discretion of police and enable a sanction to be given without the matter going before the courts.

The person has to have admitted their involvement to be given a caution, with cautions for serious offences have to be signed off by a senior officer.

All cautions will be brought to a prospective employer's attention if an individual's criminal record is checked by the Disclosure and Barring Service.

Devon and Cornwall Police were unavailable for comment, but said in the FOI response that a decision would be based upon the offence, the victim's wishes and the offender's background.

Peter Saunders, from the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, said: "Police resources are being stretched to capacity.

"I can see how a caution may be the least preferred outcome, but perhaps being pragmatic, the only outcome that is realistic given the cuts we are all suffering at the moment."

On Tuesday, it was announced the budget for Devon and Cornwall Police would be cut by a further £2.5m

A Home Office spokesman said: "The money allocated to the IPCC and HMIC represents around 0.3% of total government funding to police, while the proportion of frontline officers has increased under this government."

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