Almost 30,000 criminals including rapists and burglars "have escaped the justice system" in the London area by being handed a police caution, it has been revealed.

The Metropolitan Police is handing the out-of-court reprimand to thieves, arsonists and those guilty of assault, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The numbers show 1,356 criminals were cautioned for wounding or grievous bodily harm over 2013/14, 301 drug traffickers received cautions.

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Criminals responsible for 286 sex offences, including two rapes, also avoided court by accepting the rebuke.

Many offenders are "getting off" with multiple cautions and fines rather than having to face court, with 236 offenders receiving the reprimand more than five times.

A spokesman for the Met said officers follow official guidelines and are told to use their professional discretion when handing out cautions.