MORE than 22,000 fugitives are at large across the UK – but police are too busy to track them down, it's reported.
Suspects accused of violent assault, rape and even murder are among thousands who remain on the loose after failing to show up at court.
Some have been free for years and living openly at the addresses on court files, but overstretched police forces have not been round to check, according to an investigation by the Daily Mail.
According to a former minister, the findings "lay bare how shambolic our justice system has become".
Rreedom of information responses from 35 of the 43 forces in England and Wales found there are 22,345 "failure to appear" warrants currently active.
Some of the warrants date back as far as 1980, and over 2,000 relate to violent crimes including homicide, rape and assault.
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The shocking figures reveal more than 400 alleged sexual offenders remain at large.
And at least 11 murder suspects were also on the list.
Police deny releasing alleged murderers on bail, saying they instead bolted after being arrested on lesser charges that were later upgraded.
Criminals dodging their day in court is a serious problem for police forces up and down the country – with fugitive grime star Wiley even taunting coppers online.
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Despite facing charges of assaulting former world kickboxing champion Ali Jacko last year, the rapper goaded the police on his Twitter account after failing to appear in court.
Former home affairs minister David Mellor said: "It is really not acceptable for people to evade punishment by a court by the simple expedient of not turning up.
"You would expect in a properly run criminal justice system that the failure to turn up would be immediately followed up by police and the defendant would face the immediate loss of liberty before the case was properly dealt with.
"The fact that little or nothing seems to be happening is a sure sign of the shambles which our once much vaunted criminal justice system has descended into."
A spokesman from the National Police Chiefs' Council said forces work hard to enforce court appearances.
However a senior police source instead told the Mail that officers often do not have the necessary resources to track fugitives down.
Legal experts say part of the problem is a lack of deterrent as the punishments for failing to attend court are too soft.
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