Latest Public Sector News

30.09.13

Grayling to scrap cautions for serious offences

The use of simple cautions for serious offences will be banned, justice secretary Chris Grayling has announced.

The plan follows a review earlier this year and MoJ statistics which show that last year 493 cautions were issued for crimes that would have been heard at the crown court, instead of the magistrates’ court, if they had gone to trial. There were 167,758 simple cautions issued to adults in 2012, according to the figures.

Cautions are designed for low-level offending and can provide police with an immediate way to deal with offenders who plead guilty. Cautions don’t result in any punishment but are added to an individual’s criminal record.

Police guidance for England and Wales will be amended so that cautions will no longer be available for serious offences, including possession of any offensive weapon; supplying or buying Class A drugs; child prostitution and pornography; and possession and supply of indecent photographs of children.

On Sunday Grayling said: “Last year nearly 500 offenders who admitted committing some of the most serious crimes escaped with just a slap on the wrist.

“Quite simply this is unacceptable and unfair on victims. That is why I am scrapping simple cautions for all of the most serious offences and a range of other offences that devastate lives and tear apart communities.

“Alongside this, the home secretary and I are launching a review into the use of all out-of-court disposals – their use can be inconsistent, confusing and something the public, and victims, have little confidence in.”

Acpo's lead on out-of-court disposals, Lynne Owens said: “Today's announcement has reinforced both the importance of discretion and the responsibility for oversight when simple cautions are being used in indictable only offences. We also fully support the conclusion that the most serious cases should always be heard in court.

“It should be noted that the use of simple cautions for indictable-only offences represent a fraction of 1% of the total issued. Therefore the police service would take the view that these are only used in exceptional circumstances currently.”

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