Arrest warrants: Police hunt more than 30,000 suspects

More than 30,000 people are wanted by police in the UK on outstanding arrest warrants, data shows.

Many are suspects who have failed to turn up for court cases despite being arrested earlier.

Detailed police figures supplied by some forces to the BBC show that 14% of warrants related to violent crimes and 3% to sex crimes.

Campaigners say it is "disturbing" that justice is not being achieved and could lead to more people becoming victims.

Figures were supplied to the BBC between December 2011 and February after Freedom of Information requests to all 52 UK police forces.

Analysis of detailed statistics from 23 forces across England, Wales and Scotland shows that 2,027 warrants were for specific offences of violence such as murder, causing death by dangerous driving and assault.

A further 423 warrants were for sexual crimes including rape.

'Anger and frustration'

Data from the remaining 29 forces (two did not reply) gave only an indication of the actual number of outstanding warrants in existence.

The figures cover cases where a defendant has failed to appear for trial as well as those where an arrest warrant has been issued by a court.

Bail is usually granted unless a suspect is deemed likely to flee, commit further offences or interfere with witnesses. It can be given by police, magistrates or a judge.

The revelations have sparked concern among campaigners, who warn the system is failing victims of crime.

Javed Khan, chief executive of the national charity Victim Support, said: "It is disturbing that there are such a high number of outstanding warrants, particularly for people who are charged with violent and sexual crimes.

"Not only does this create considerable anger and frustration for victims but it means that justice is not achieved and puts more people at risk of becoming victims.

"We urge the police to do all they can to rectify this situation."

'Greatest threat'

Responding to the numbers, Assistant Chief Constable Alison Roome-Gifford from the Association of Chief Police Officers said many warrants were outstanding because suspects had failed to appear in court over minor issues such as traffic offences.

She said: "What is most important is that police forces have robust systems in place to identify, track and locate those individuals who present the greatest threat of harm to the public.

"When such an individual fails to appear, police forces will prioritise searching for such people and bringing them before the courts at the earliest opportunity."

However, some crime victims say more thought is needed before bail is granted to suspects charged with serious crimes, like rape.

Heidi Olseen was raped at a party at a close friend's house in London in 2008. Her alleged attacker was arrested and given bail, but went on the run.

She has waved her right to anonymity to help other people in a similar situation.

She said: "There is no sense of justice for me as no justice has been done.

Image caption Police are appealing for the whereabouts of Kimamo Wanjuki Kimamo, 25

"And something needs to change - especially if you want people to come forward and report crimes, especially serious crimes.

"It seems that [if] the police are so confident in the evidence that they've got, why don't they have the powers to hold somebody until the case comes to court?"

Her alleged attacker, Kimamo Wanjunki Kimamo, 25, is one of many alleged offenders wanted by police.

He was charged with raping Miss Olseen and bailed, and was due to attend Hendon Magistrates' Court in London in January 2009, but did not turn up.

'Where is the justice?'

Miss Olseen said: "What is the point of the police or the courts? What is their role if in this case nothing has been done about it?

"Nobody has been punished for it, so where is the justice, because I can't see it? I'm the only one that's been punished - and my friends and family."

A Home Office spokeswoman commented on the data: "The management of an outstanding arrest warrant is an operational matter for the police.

"The government is committed to ensuring the police and other agencies have the tools and powers they need to protect victims of crime and to bring offenders to justice.

"By publishing increasing amounts of data through crime maps and with the introduction of directly elected police and crime commissioners, we are giving communities the information they need to hold their local force to account."

Note on figures above: They cover 23 forces across Britain, and date from December 2011-February 2012. Figures were supplied by individual forces in response to Freedom of Information requests by the BBC.

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