Data adds to probation safety row

More than 148,000 criminals convicted or cautioned over the past year had at least 15 previous offences, the Government has revealed.

As reports revealed that leading probation figures have warned Justice Secretary Chris Grayling to delay plans to privatise the service for at least six months, the Ministry of Justice released figures to illustrate what it calls the “frightening scale” of re-offending.

A package of £450m-worth of contracts has been offered to private and voluntary sector organisations, covering the supervision of 225,000 low and medium-risk offenders each year on a payment-by-results basis.

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The Government is also introducing a minimum 12 months supervision and rehabilitation for those released from prison.

Members of the National Association of Probation Officers (Napo) are to strike next Tuesday over the proposals.

In a letter to the Justice Secretary seen by The Guardian, Jane Wilson, chairwoman of the Leicestershire and Rutland probation trust, said the timetable has “serious implications for service delivery and therefore increases the risk to public safety”.

Latest figures also show more than 500,000 offenders had at least one previous conviction or caution, including 95 per cent of those given short sentences of less than 12 months. And more than 350,000 of those convicted or cautioned in the same period had served a community sentence.