Byline: MATTHEW HICKLEY
THE number of violent criminals escaping justice has soared since Labour came to power, Home Office figures revealed yesterday.
Conviction rates for robbery, serious wounding and rape have plunged below 10 per cent.
But at the same time the number of such crimes has risen dramatically. The figures reveal that more than 100,000 responsible for these offences were not caught or went unpunished last year.
Police chiefs last night blamed the rise in violence on a surge in binge-drinking which they said was putting more and more young people at risk, with booze-fuelled assaults now claiming a new victim every 13 seconds around the clock.
The figures added to the mounting pressure on Home Secretary John Reid - and came as a reminder that the ongoing foreign prisoner debacle is just one of several areas of concern over his department's performance.
Last week Mr Reid pledged to 'rebalance the criminal justice sysdoubledtem', saying: 'I won't rest until the law and the justice system works for law-abiding people, not criminals.' However, the plummeting conviction rates for serious violent crimes - revealed in an analysis of official crime figures - reveal just how far Mr Reid's aspiration is from reality.
The number of 'serious woundings' including stabbings recorded by police rose from 12,531 in 1997 to 19,425 last year - an increase of 55 per cent.
But over the same period the conviction rate fell from 14.8 to 9.7 per cent.
That means the number of attackers escaping punishment soared by two-thirds from 10,676 to 17,540. For robberies, recorded crimes rose 40 per cent from 63,000 to 88,700.
But the proportion leading to conviction or a police caution dropped from 10.2 to 8.9 per cent, and the number of offenders escaping justice rose 43 per cent from 56,600 to 80,800.
The worst figures covered rape, where recorded cases more than from 6,281 in 1997 to 12,869 last year.
Conviction rates dropped from 9.2 per cent to 5.5 per …