COURTS in Derbyshire have been accused of failing protect the public by refusing to lock up hundreds of dangerous criminals.
The county has the highest proportion of offenders serving suspended sentences in the UK, new figures have shown.
The research was carried out by campaign group the Centre for Crime Prevention, which said the results were evidence that Britain’s courts are not being tough enough on criminals.
In 2012 in Derbyshire, more than a third of the 980 criminals that were convicted had jail sentences suspended, with many having already racked up numerous previous convictions.
They included a man who strangled a cat and threw its body in a bin.
The data showed a massive increase in courts opting for suspended sentences compared to a decade earlier when only 41 were issued.
In Staffordshire, 26 per cent of offenders were handed suspended prison terms in 2012.
Though the figure was much lower than Derbyshire, the county still saw a huge rise in suspended sentences, rising from 45 to 632.
The Centre for Crime Prevention blamed the previous Labour Government for making it too easy for courts to suspend jail terms and called for tougher measures to be introduced.
Its report said: “The figures are a failure of public protection. The Blair Government’s decision to remove the requirement that prison sentences be suspended only in exceptional circumstances has led to an explosion in numbers.
“This means tens of thousands of killers, thugs, sex offenders and fraudsters avoiding prison and reoffending hundreds of thousands of times.
“As they explode in numbers, suspended sentences are failing to control crime and to protect the public. Once a curious anomaly in the criminal justice system, the injustice and misery they cause is growing to alarming levels. Suspended sentences should be abolished.”