More than 22,000 crime suspects are on the loose after failing to appear in court, the Daily Mail can reveal today.
Fugitives accused of assault, rape and even murder remain at large, sometimes decades after their alleged offences.
Many are thought to be at their given addresses but police are too stretched to arrest them. The Mail investigation even managed to locate two suspects at their own homes.
According to a former minister our findings ‘lay bare how shambolic our justice system has become’.
Legal experts said the punishments for failing to attend court were too light to act as a deterrent.
Freedom of information requests to 35 of the 43 forces in England and Wales showed there were 22,345 failure to appear warrants for offences including homicide, rape and serious assault.
A Mail investigation even managed to locate two suspects at their own homes
Some date back as far as 1980 and more than 2,000 relate to violent crimes.
Among the outstanding warrants was one for a defendant accused of assaulting four police officers and destroying a police car in Slough, Berkshire. However a Mail reporter found him in plain sight at his home in west London. The freedom of information data shows that more than 406 alleged sexual offenders are on the loose along with at least 11 murder suspects.
Police forces said the alleged killers were not bailed after being charged with murder. Instead they fled after being arrested over a lesser offence that was later upgraded.
Ministry of Justice data from the ten years before the pandemic show that between 70,000 and 77,000 failure to appear warrants are issued each year.
Former home affairs minister David Mellor said: ‘It is really not acceptable for people to evade punishment by a court by the simple expedient of not turning up.
‘You would expect in a properly run criminal justice system that the failure to turn up would be immediately followed up by police and the defendant would face the immediate loss of liberty before the case was properly dealt with. The fact that little or nothing seems to be happening is a sure sign of the shambles which our once much vaunted criminal justice system has descended into.’
Scotland Yard had 3,961 outstanding warrants as of May, including 920 for violent crimes, possessing offensive weapons or making threats to kill. West Midlands Police had 1,791 and Greater Manchester Police 1,386, including 75 for sexual offences and two for suspected murderers.
Scotland Yard had 3,961 outstanding warrants as of May, including 920 for violent crimes
A spokesman from the National Police Chiefs’ Council said forces worked hard to locate those who failed to appear in court and public appeals were often used for higher risk suspects. And they cautioned that the figures represented a snap shot of a total that changes every day as warrants are acted on.
A senior police source said officers were shown photographs of wanted suspects but did not have the resources to carry out regular house visits.
Sentencing guidelines for failing to surrender range between a small fine and up to six weeks in prison.
Retired senior police officer Norman Brennan, who served in London for 31 years, said that 20 years ago officers would immediately go to the address of any suspect who failed to appear in court but forces were now understaffed.
‘These offenders know how badly police are stretched so they treat their victims and the criminal justice system with contempt, knowing they will get away with it,’ he said. ‘Our criminal justice system is in chaos from top to bottom.’
Nick Titchener, director at Lawtons Solicitors, said given the antiquated and disparate nature of police recording systems, some defendants may have been arrested and the warrant withdrawn, one suspect might have multiple warrants against them and some might have died with the warrant remaining active.
‘There are so many reasons why the figure may be so high and some of these reasons may well account for a not insignificant proportion of them,’ Mr Titchener added.
Mail found ‘fugitives’ by knocking on their doors
The Daily Mail visited the known addresses of six fugitives and found two of them at home.
One of them was a 24-year-old man who allegedly assaulted three police constables and an inspector and destroyed a Ford Mondeo on May 27 last year.
He was bailed on February 12 but failed to surrender to custody for hearings at Reading Magistrates’ Court on February 28, March 22 and May 18.
A reporter found him in plain sight at his home in Uxbridge, west London. The address was the same as that on his court listing. It is unclear whether officers had previously visited the property.
Thames Valley Police arrested the suspect on June 23 after the Mail reported his whereabouts and he appeared in court the following day. Incredibly, he was again granted bail to appear for trial on October 13.
One of them was a 24-year-old man who allegedly assaulted three police constables and an inspector and destroyed a Ford Mondeo on May 27 last year
The second fugitive was a 45-year-old woman who was arrested after allegedly stealing a Dior perfume bottle and a Giorgio Armani fragrance box set from Boots in Bristol in September last year.
She was bailed but a warrant was issued for her arrest when she failed to attend a hearing at Bristol Magistrates’ Court earlier this month. A reporter found her at her home in south Gloucestershire last week.
Avon and Somerset Police have been informed of her whereabouts.
A spokesman said addresses linked to wanted individuals could be visited by officers and cases were prioritised according to their risk to the public.
A warrant was issued for the arrest of Karzan Amar after he failed to appear in court in 2018 over alleged false imprisonment and actual bodily harm.
While on the run, the 30-year-old allegedly committed a further domestic abuse offence, in Eastleigh, in February last year. Hampshire Police issued another wanted appeal for the man, originally from Chester, last week and the fugitive remains at large.
Partying with Rashford, the rapper wanted by the Yard
Rap artist Wiley, who won an MBE for services to music in 2018, has been wanted by police since November for failing to attend court on assault and burglary charges.
But he was photographed partying in Dubai in January with Manchester United stars Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard, both of whom faced abuse on social media for associating with the musician, who has published anti-Semitic tirades. Both footballers later apologised and expressed their support for tackling anti-Semitism.
WIley was photographed partying in Dubai in January with Manchester United stars Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard
The 43-year-old, real name Richard Cowie Jr, had been performing before sell-out crowds at BLU Dubai, a luxury nightclub at the V Hotel. The Home Office and Scotland Yard faced questions over how the ‘Godfather of Grime’ could have fled Britain for the Middle East while the subject of a manhunt.
Cowie was accused of breaking into Ali Jacko’s east London home on August 28, smashing plates and assaulting the former kickboxing champion. After failing to appear before Thames magistrates for an initial hearing he published a video taunting police in which he said: ‘Don’t come looking for me.’
A judge issued an arrest warrant after he failed to appear on November 11 last year. Scotland Yard issued a fresh appeal to trace the rapper on May 11.