MORE than 500 police cautions were handed out last year to criminals who had already been given formal warnings.

Thames Valley Police cautioned 2,162 Oxfordshire people in 2013 – 515 of whom had already been cautioned before including two criminals warned five times previously.

The figures, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, have raised questions over the effectiveness of the warnings, but the force has defended its use of them.

Banbury MP Sir Tony Baldry told police and criminal justice minister Daiman Green in Parliament in December that cautions should not be handed out for serious crimes.

Now he believes Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner Anthony Stansfeld should look at how cautions are given out.

He said: “Within the criminal justice system there may well be many good reasons for issuing a caution rather than bringing a prosecution.

“However, I think the only difficulty with cautions is that by definition they are not subject to judicial oversight. There is no effective mechanism for detailing what cautions, as a whole, are being applied appropriately.

“There is no perfect way to monitor this but I think it is probably a matter the Police and Crime Commissioner should look into.”

A caution is a formal police warning that is given to a person who has admitted a crime and it will always stay on their record. Those who refuse the caution will usually face prosecution.

Superintendent Rory Freeman, head of Criminal Justice at Thames Valley Police, said cautions were used in proportion to the crime committed. He added victims’ wishes were also considered. He also said a caution should not be given to someone cautioned or convicted of similar crimes within two years.

But he said: “Cautions act as a strong deterrent for most of those that receive them. The majority of those given a caution do not reoffend.

“For those that do, cautions provide a record of their offending that can be used to highlight a pattern of behaviour should that individual be arrested for a similar offence again or face prosecution before the courts.

“Thames Valley Police has consistently followed the Ministry of Justice guidance on simple cautions which have very recently been put on statutory footing by the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill.”

Last year, the Oxford Mail reported that rapists, robbers, arsonists and sex offenders were among those given 15,466 cautions between April 2006 and April 2012.