Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

Criminal justice – simplifying out of court disposals

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The Government has recently announced that it is launching a new pilot scheme that will significantly change the way in which out of court disposals for those accused of criminal activity are dealt with.

It is already the case that the use of out-of-court disposals overall has decreased in recent years. Thus in the 12 months to the end of March 2014, there were 391,171 given, comprising 235,323 cautions, 77,933 cannabis warnings and 77,915 penalty notices for disorder. This compares to 522,133 out-of-court disposals given in the 12 months to the end of March 2010.

The new scheme – which does not affect penalty notices for disorder – will comprise:

  1. a new statutory community resolution – aimed at first-time offenders. This will be used to resolve minor offences through an agreement with the offender. It will empower victims, giving them a say in how they want the offender to be dealt with. It could see an offender offering a verbal or written apology to the victim, making reparation (which can include fixing material damages) or paying financial compensation;
  2. a suspended prosecution – designed to tackle more serious offending. This will allow the police to attach 1 or more conditions to the disposal which must be reparative, rehabilitative and/or punitive in nature. It could see the offender receiving a punitive fine or attending a course designed to rehabilitate him or her and reduce the likelihood of re-offending

Under this new two-tier framework, offenders would have to take steps to comply with the disposal, rather than just accepting a warning, which is often the case with the current system. If they fail to comply, they will risk being prosecuted for the original offence.

The pilot scheme will operate in three polic areas for 12 months and will be assessed before a decision is taken on whether to roll out the framework nationally.

For further information, see https://www.gov.uk/government/news/putting-an-end-to-soft-option-cautions

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Written by lwtmp

November 4, 2014 at 10:31 am

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