Fury erupted last night after it was revealed 109,000 criminals dodged punishment just by saying sorry to their victims.

MPs and justice campaigners said it was “staggering and deeply concerning” offenders including violent thugs, sex attackers, robbers and drug dealers were allowed to escape a criminal record by taking part in restorative justice in the year to September.

The figure was up from 102,700 the year before – a rise of 6%.

Instead of going to court or getting a police caution they agree to say sorry face-to-face to those they have wronged and may be ordered to pay compensation or carry out some form of reparation.

Supporters of the policy - also known as community resolution - claim it is a fairer way of dealing with criminals while giving `closure’ to victims.

But David Spencer, of the Centre For Crime Prevention think-tank, said: ``Community resolutions are all well and good for disputes between neighbours or a family argument.

Tory MP Philip Davies uncovered the findings

"But they are totally inappropriate for serious violent and sexual offences.

"The public will find it staggering and deeply concerning. It defies belief that anyone would find them appropriate for knife crimes.

"Using community resolutions for serious crimes has to stop. An apology is no deterrent whatsoever.’’

Bar Council chairman Amanda Pinto said: "What might appear to be faceless statistics tell a human story of injustices which are being repeated over and over in every part of the country.’’

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Tory MP Philip Davies, who uncovered the figures, said they show 'how weak our criminal justice system is’.

New Ministry of Justice figures revealed the number of criminals sentenced in court has dropped from 1.4million to 1.2m - the lowest in a decade.

At the same time official figures revealed 5.8m crimes were recorded by police in England and Wales in the year to September - a rise of 7% and a million more than a decade ago.

Knife crime, rapes and sex attacks are at record highs.

Knife crime is at an all-time high in the UK

Experts say one reason fewer criminals are being prosecuted is because police are arresting fewer.

A report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary said this was because officers are making greater use of community resolutions.

Police guidance suggests officers should use them only for incidents in which no-one is hurt or for anti-social behaviour.

But figures indicate police are ignoring the rules.

Last year 32,012 violent thugs were dealt with by community resolutions as were 552 sexual attackers, 179 robbers, 29,249 drug offenders and 1,784 caught carrying a weapon.

A Government spokesman said it was `cracking down on crime and restoring public confidence in the justice system - recruiting more police, building extra prison places and making sure violent and sexual offenders spend longer behind bars.’