An update on the use of cautions
The appropriate use of cautions is a subject that I and my team have been focused on throughout the year. I welcome the recent announcement of the Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling, that cautions should not be given for the most serious offences, and will look at the proposed changes in detail.
When used appropriately, with the victim fully involved in the process, cautions can be an effective part of the criminal justice process. Earlier this year, after a burglar had received a caution following an offence in Chelmsford, Essex Police conducted a full internal review of their use of cautions. I was broadly reassured by that review which, amongst other matters, established that the particular case was isolated and exceptional.
There were also concerns raised around the use of cautions for sexual offences, and I particularly welcome the input of the South Essex Rape and Incest Crisis Centre with whom I have had several valuable discussions. Currently, a caution for a serious, indictable, offence must be authorised by the Crown Prosecution Service. The Essex Police Public Protection Command and the CPS have worked together particularly closely in recent months, and cautions for indictable sexual offences have reduced significantly.
Lindsay Whitehouse, Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, is now leading a group of criminal justice experts, including Magistrates, Essex Probation Service, the CPS, the Youth Offending Service, Victim Support and the Independent Advisory Group, in an independent process to review the use of cautions here in Essex. We are one of the first counties anywhere in the country to introduce an independent review, and five per cent of cautions are examined at each of the quarterly meetings. The group highlights best practice, and also identifies areas where the use of cautions should be subject to further review. I am particularly delighted that our Magistrates are fully involved in this process, and confident that Essex is leading the way here.
We need justice to deliver real and meaningful outcomes, both for victims and to prevent re-offending by perpetrators. Cautions are an important part of the criminal justice process, and I welcome all the national and local work to ensure that they are used appropriately.
Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex
For further background, a national news report of Chris Grayling’s announcement can be read here.