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Government to review use of cautions

9 November 2009

Jack Straw has announced he would review the rules on cautions amid rising concern that they are increasingly used in cases where offenders should be formally charged.

The justice secretary defended the government’s policy, saying that cautions were not being used as a way of keeping prisoners’ numbers under control.

His comment came only a few weeks after the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, launched a consultation to amend the code of conduct for prosecutors.

The consultation proposes, among other things, the introduction of a new ‘proportionality’ element requiring prosecutors to consider whether out-of-court disposals such as cautions are not a more suitable alternative to prosecution.

But Straw said he was concerned about the regional disparity in respect of out-of-court disposals by police forces in Britain.

He told the BBC’s World At One today that, following representations from magistrates, he would shortly announce a review of the use of out-of-court disposals.

The review will be led by the Office of Criminal Justice Reform and will involve the inspectors of constabulary and the inspectorate of the criminal justice system, he said.

“The review will look in detail at the use of all out-of-court disposals, including penalty notices for disorder and police cautions”, a Ministry of Justice spokesman said.

Police cautions are regarded as a more proportionate response to crime for low level offences but a BBC Panorama programme to be aired tonight has found that nearly 39,000 cautions were issued last year for actual bodily harm, and 739 for grievous bodily harm.

Categorised in:

Procedures Police & Prisons Discrimination