There has been a big rise in the number of violent criminals and sexual offenders in Waltham Forests who have been let off with a caution.

Figures obtained by the Guardian show an 87 per cent increase in cautions issued for wounding with intent, previously classified as grievous bodily harm.

The offence is placed under the broad classification of violence against a person, which has seeen cautions rise to 617 in the 12 months to April, compared to 491 in the previous year.

Last year 60 people who admitted sexual offences were cautioned, compared to eight in the previous 12 months.

Cautions are only issued to people who admit an offence, but they do not go through a legal process and their identities are kept out of the public domain.

In total, 1,113 cautions were issued in the borough in the last financial year, compared to 990 in the previous 12 months.

These included offences such as drug trafficking, robbery, burglary and fraud.

Borough Commander Mark Collins has defended the use of cautions, saying the rise reflects an overall increase in reported crime. 

He said: "The number of crimes resulting in a caution has increased during this reporting period in line with the number of crimes reported as a whole.  

"I believe this is due to a mixture of proactive policing within the communities and the growing confidence that the community has for the caution system."

Despite the seriousness of the offences, Chief Superintendent Collins insisted cautions are a “legitimate method for concluding crime”.

He added: "They are certainly not escaping justice and in many cases it assists the victim who does not have to experience a court hearing.

"There is however set criteria for when a caution can be used or considered and I am confident that as a borough we abide by this whenever a caution is given.

"Crimes that fall under the categories of violence against a person, fraud and sexual offences can range from a low level crime to serious offences.  

"Some of these low level crimes may fit the criteria explained above and so would be suitable for a caution."

Reports of crimes such as rape, other sexual offences and domestic violence have increased by 72 per cent in Waltham Forest over the past two years. 

However, police figures show murder, gun crime, robbery and burglaries are falling across the borough. 

For a full breakdown of the 2013/14 cautions, please see this week's Waltham Forest and Chingford Guardian - out Thursday.