A public consultation invites views on the operational impact and workability of the newly drafted Code of Practice for the statutory two-tier framework of Out of Court Disposals, as set out in The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Act 2022.

Out of Court Disposals (OOCDs) is the term used for a range of pre-charge sanctions, used by Police and other prosecution agencies to deal with less serious offending.

The PCSC Act 2022 set out reforms to replace the current framework of warnings, penalties, and cautions with a new statutory two-tier framework, which consists of:
The Diversionary Caution, which is the upper-tier disposal with conditions attached. A breach of conditions can result in prosecution for the original offence.
The Community Caution, which is the lower-tier disposal with conditions attached. A breach of conditions can result in the imposition of a financial penalty. Non-compliance with conditions can also result in a court fine but cannot be prosecuted.

The new, draft Code of Practice provides stricter guidance to police on how and when to use OOCDs, including the need to consider victims’ views when considering using them and the conditions applied to any caution.

Justice Minister Damian Hinds said:

“The current system for these punishments has grown unwieldy, and has led to inconsistencies in their use. This simplified system will ensure victims see justice being delivered, better nip lower-level criminality in the bud and guarantee the most serious offenders always face the full glare of the courtroom.”

What does this mean, practically?

Unlike in the previous system, both cautions must be issued with one or more meaningful conditions focusing on rehabilitation or providing direct restitution to the victim or the local community. These could include targeted unpaid work such as cleaning up graffiti, drug treatment courses or a compensation payment to the victim.

Offenders must admit their offence to be eligible for the new cautions, meaning they accept responsibility for their actions and engage with their punishment.

Certain serious crimes like use of offensive or bladed weapon will be specified as excluded offences, which in the view of government “[sends] a strong signal that serious offences should be pursued through the courts.”

The changes will also provide clarity to frontline police officers over when and how cautions should be used.

In appropriate circumstances, police will retain use of the existing non-statutory Community Resolution.

Once the new cautions framework is implemented, the other 5 OOCDs that are currently available will be abolished, namely Cannabis Warnings, Khat Warnings, Penalty Notice for Disorder, Adult Simple Caution, and Adult Conditional Caution.


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