In the Media

Up to half of offences dealt with out of court in some areas

PUBLISHED July 12, 2012

Analysis of Ministry of Justice figures shows that one in five sex offenders was given a caution along with more than a quarter or those found guilty of violence against the person.

More than half of offenders given cautions had a previous conviction or caution to their name, even though they are only meant to be given to first-time offenders. Cautions do not count as convictions but they do appear on criminal records as they involve admission of guilt.

And many of the 1.2m handed fines simply avoid paying them, with up to £47million having gone uncollected over the past eight years. Just a third of the penalty notices issued in Cleveland were paid, according to the research by Policy Exchange, a think-tank favoured by the Government.

In total 405,943 offences were dealt with out of court in 2011, a third of all of those solved by police. Although the figure has fallen in recent years, it remains 68 per cent higher than the number recorded in 2003.

The number of cases brought to court varies greatly across England and Wales, with Dyfed Powys using out-of-court disposals in 47 per cent of cases compared with 25 per cent in the West Midlands police area.

Some 828 cautions were issued for robbery, wounding with intent and aggravated criminal damage, serious offences that are normally tried in crown courts.

Karen Sosa, the report's author, said: "The evidence points to a continued problem of widespread inconsistency in their application and in the enforcement of out-of-court disposals.

"Current data also suggests that along with erratic use, there are a number of areas where OOCDs are being used inappropriately; to dispose of serious, indictable-only offences, and serial offenders are receiving multiple out-of-court disposals, with no formal system to monitor repeat use."