Labour initially adopted a tough stance on burglary, enacting a Tory plan in 2000 to impose minimum three-year jail terms for those convicted of a third offence, although the measure was watered down to give judges more discretion.

But since then magistrates and judges have increasingly been encouraged to hand out more community punishments, and the proportion of convicted burglars sent to jail has plunged from 51 per cent to less than 40 per cent last year – down from 14,338 offenders to just 9,237 – while the number of suspended sentences has soared.