Byline: MARTIN BENTHAM
FEWER than half of all robbery suspects tried in London are convicted, figures reveal today.
From some courts, nearly two thirds of defendants walk free.
The Home Office figures show that 4,047 alleged robbers were prosecuted last year but only 1,946 were found guilty.
The total number convicted is also only a tiny fraction of 42,481 robbery offences recorded by police last year.
The figures, released in response to a parliamentary question by Tory MP Anthony Steen, will intensify public concern about the level of robbery in London.
Mr Steen blamed the small proportion of convictions on short sentences, allowing muggers to return to the streets quickly, and bureaucracy, which he said made it difficult to bring prosecutions.
"These figures are a shocking indictment," robbery cases he said. "There are lots of muggings every day and the criminals who commit them are getting away with it.
"Muggers know that if they rob someone in the right place then they are very unlikely to be apprehended.
"We can only deter them if a lot more is done to make sure that they are caught and convicted.
"At the moment, we are living in a lawless society."
The figures also show that in 2003 there were 4,046 prosecutions - only one fewer than last year - and 1,828 convictions, meaning the proportion of suspects being convicted has improved only marginally in two years.
An area breakdown shows that the courts where suspects have the best chance of walking free include Highbury Corner, where only 66 out of 193 prosecutions were successful last year, and Horseferry Road, where 64 out of 144 suspects were found guilty.
By comparison, Bromley, Newham and Hillingdon courts all saw more than two thirds of cases end in a guilty verdict.
Conviction rates in outer London are generally higher than in central areas, although the numbers of prosecutions are usually lower, reflecting the high crime rates of many inner boroughs. …