Thousands of minor criminals will face prosecution each year instead of receiving a succession of police cautions, the Government will announce today.
Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, will set out plans to legislate banning police from offering repeat offenders more than one caution within two years.
The move will attract criticism for potentially driving up prison numbers at a time when English and Welsh jails are almost full.
But Mr Grayling said: “There are a small group of persistent offenders who commit the same offences time and time again, some of whom rack up a string of cautions. This does not deliver justice for victims.”
He said a review by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) had concluded that cautions were in general administered appropriately, but there was still public concern about the extent of their use.
The new move would mean an offender who receives a caution for shoplifting should not receive a second for a further offence of theft within two years.
The only exception would be in “exceptional circumstances” and if the exemption was signed off by a police inspector.
Mr Grayling said the change showed the Government was “working with the police to make sure people who break the law will not escape the law”.
The MoJ review concluded that all types of out of court disposal should now be re-examined, including conditional cautions, fixed penalty notices, cannabis warnings and penalty notices for disorder.
Mr Grayling has already decided to ban the use of cautions for the most serious offences including rape and robbery.