Up to 98 percent of car thefts in England and Wales could be going unpunished, new data suggests.

Analysis by Churchill Car Insurance found that, in England and Wales, just 7,405 prosecutions have been made for theft of a motor vehicle between 2012 and 2016, despite around 380,000 vehicles being reported stolen.

During that five year period – the latest for which data is available – an average day would see 208 reported stolen every day, but just four cases brought to court.

London’s Metropolitan Police is the most prolific force when it comes to charging suspects, with 1,490 individuals charged between 2012 and 2016. This accounts for one-fifth of the national totals for England and Wales.

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Of the cases heard during the time period investigated, Churchill said just 20 percent resulted in custodial sentences, while those receiving non-custodial sentences were given an average fine of just £198.

Steve Barrett, head of car insurance at Churchill, said the country lacked a strong enough punishment to deter car thieves.

‘Vehicle theft is one of the most prevalent crimes in the UK, accounting for over a fifth of all recorded vehicle offences,’ he said. ‘As well as being a harrowing experience, having your car stolen can be a huge inconvenience, with many people reliant on their cars on a daily basis. It is, therefore, concerning that so few custodial sentences are handed down for vehicle theft.

‘We believe the punishment needs to reflect the impact of the crime, with greater sentences and fines for the theft of a vehicle. Given the risks, however, it is important owners make their vehicles as difficult to steal as possible and to have measures in place so that if it is stolen, there is a way of locating it and identifying the perpetrator.’

Motor1.com has contacted the National Police Chiefs’ Council for comment, but has not yet received a response.