Thousands of juveniles who have committed serious crimes have been let off with a "slap on the wrist" and without a formal conviction, new figures show.
More than 20,000 under 18s avoided being charged with crimes, such as sexual offences, robbery, burglary, assault with injury and possession of drugs with intent to supply.
Instead they were dealt with informally by "community resolutions" - which range from apologies to offers of compensation - rather than prosecutions and cautions.
They can be used when the perpetrator admits the offence and, in most cases, where the victim has agreed that they do not want more formal action taken.
The data came from 32 police forces in England and Wales which responded to a Freedom of Information request by the Press Association
The figures show that community resolutions have been used for serious offences against Home Office guidelines, which state they are for a "less serious offence or anti-social behaviour".
Some forces have been using community resolutions to deal with low level offending for several years but the introduction of the community remedy in the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 has seen their use widened.
"Typically, community resolutions are used when dealing with low-level criminal damage, low value theft, minor assaults (without injury) and anti-social behaviour," the Home Office guidance states.
Unlike a caution, a community resolution does not lead to a criminal record and is not revealed by an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check.
Since 2009 just over 20,000 have been issued to juveniles, with more than three quarters - more than 17,000 - for assault with injury, according to figures gathered by the Press Association.
Another 2,000 were for burglary, nearly 700 for sexual offences, 600 for robbery and almost 100 for possession of drugs with intent to supply.
The figures also show that more than 23,000 adults have been dealt with by way of community resolution since 2009, including 21,000 for assault with injury, 1,300 for burglary and 600 for robbery.
According to an analysis of the data, Derbyshire Police issued the most community resolutions for both juveniles and adults, closely followed by Devon and Cornwall and then Greater Manchester.
Conservative MP Philip Davies said: "Victims of serious crimes will be horrified to find out that so many perpetrators are being given no more than a slap on the wrist.
"Crimes such as burglary and robbery are extremely serious and should always result in a court appearance and a custodial sentence.
"What sort of a message are we sending out to these criminals when their serious offences are being treated in such a pathetic manner?"
A Home Office spokesman said: "We always expect criminals to be prosecuted and punished in accordance with the law.
"Serious crimes will continue to be progressed through the courts, where they will be face tough sentences.
"However, community resolutions can be used for some crimes where the victim does not want the police to take more formal action.
"They are also often used in cases of young offenders to help them face up to the impact of their behaviour.
"Individual chief constables are responsible for making sure they are only used in appropriate circumstances.
"Forces are encouraged to establish a local scrutiny panel to ensure the police are held accountable for their use of all out of court disposals, including community resolutions."