Duncan Lewis

Legal Aid

Lawyers London

Cautions by police to offenders will be reviewed

Date: (3 April 2013)    |    

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Justice Secretary wants steps taken to bring more suspects before the courts instead of letting them go with a warning
Cautions, issued at the discretion of police, are a way of sanctioning criminals without going to court but concerns have been raised that they are being used to deal with repeat offenders and for those who commit serious crimes, contrary to advice.
A review into cautions given by police will be launched by the justice secretary to ensure more suspects are brought before a court, it has been reported.
Last year more than 200,000 people who committed crime were cautioned. The vast majority of those received a formal warning from police about their conduct, following an admission of guilt.
Chris Grayling will investigate the use of cautions against people who commit serious crimes, including sexual offences, The Sun has said.
The Tory MP said the number of cautions being handed out by officers had gone out of control and was not consistent between different forces. He told The Sun that he was worried about some recent cases where cautions have been given to criminals who have committed multiple crimes.
The number of cautions given for sexual offences were going down which was good but a review was needed to make sure they were only given where truly appropriate.
He added that although officers should use their discretion, the public and victims had the right to expect people who commit serious crimes to be brought before a court.
According to the BBC legal correspondent this review was not being driven by an increase in numbers as there has been 42% decrease in cautions over the past five years but it was prompted by concerns that contrary to guidance given to police they were being used to deal with serious offences and repeat offenders.
In the most recent annual figures covering offenders who were either cautioned or found guilty in court, more than one in four people involved in violence against others, and one in five sex offenders, received cautions, including 19 cautioned for rape.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said the review followed calls for "greater public confidence and transparency in police use of cautions for repeat offenders and for those who commit serious crimes".
The MoJ said it was working with the Home Office and Attorney General's Office, and the review would closely involve the police, Crown Prosecution Service, victims' organisations, the judiciary and the legal community.
The review will report back to ministers by the end of May.