GOVERNMENT figures have shown that in recent years Hartlepool had the highest percentage of criminals re-offending.
New figures released by the Government show that more than a third of the town’s offenders returned to their criminal ways in 2009.
The re-offending rate was a bleak 36.6 per cent and just over 10 per cent higher than the national average.
Government chiefs have today pledged to bring in tougher sentences to reverse the disturbing trend after releasing re-offending statistics for the first time.
The figures showed there were 1,954 offenders in the town who committed 2,303 further offences in 2009, an average of 1.18 each.
The average number of previous offences each had topped 17.82, according to the figures released by the Ministry of Justice.
In Hartlepool, 42 people were classed as prolific or priority offenders in 2009, with 85.7 per cent going on to reoffend.
They had an average of 84 previous convictions each and went on to commit 243 more offences during the year at an average of 5.79 crimes each.
County Durham had a reoffending rate of 28.4 per cent as 5,403 crimes were notched up by more than a quarter of the 6,572 people in the area convicted of a crime.
In the Stockton borough, which includes Billingham, Wolviston and parts of Wynyard, 2,627 re-offences were carried out from a pool of 2,868 convicts at a slightly higher rate of 29.3 per cent.
Durham and Tees Valley Probation Trust, which runs probation services across Teesside and County Durham, saw 41.9 per cent of the offenders they worked with go on to re-offend during the same period with 4,722 criminals committing another 7,302 crimes.
It comes as the re-offending rate in England and Wales dropped slightly over the past decade, down from 27.9 per cent in 2000 to 26.3 per cent in 2009, new figures show.
The number of offenders who returned to crime stood at 510,000 nationwide in 2009.
Prisons and Probation Minister Crispin Blunt said: “Re-offending in this country is unacceptably high and these statistics underline the urgent need for steps to reform the system and introduce a rehabilitation revolution to our prisons and community sentences.
“That is why we are introducing tougher sentences that properly punish offenders while addressing the root causes of their behaviour.”
Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond said although Hartlepool had the worst rate for re-offending in the country, crime has continued to fall in recent years.
He said: “Crime is at the lowest level it’s been in Hartlepool.
“I’m not overly worried by the figures. It shows that we have got a small number of people committing a large proportion of the crimes therefore as a percentage re-offending appears to be high.
“The figures are about two years old as well and I am trying to get up to date information.”
See tomorrow’s Mail for more reaction.