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Out of Court Disposals need to be simplified

Home Affairs Select Committee Report on Out of Court Disposals (3 March 2015)

This report highlights the lack of consistency in administering out of court disposals (OOCDs). The report recommends simplifying the guidance to police officers, placing the guidance on a statutory footing and introducing scrutiny panels to avoid a postcode lottery.

Details

The report examines the use of out of court disposals and highlights that “[t]he way in which OOCDs have originated, and how local police forces have used them, has created a postcode lottery. It is wrong that an offence committed in Cumbria should go to court, while the same offence, if it was committed in Gloucestershire, might be dealt with by a caution.” [paragraph 17]

The report refers to evidence that “many police officers exhibited patchy knowledge of the range of disposals, and of the detailed guidance behind each separate type of disposal”.

The report recommends introducing Scrutiny Panels and the proposal that the guidance be put on a statutory footing.

Commentary

This report acknowledges the huge amount of discretion police officers are given in determining whether to offer youth cautions.  Practitioners seeking to persuade police officers to offer a youth caution or take no further action should be in a position to draw police officer’s attention to the relevant and varied guidance available.  For young offenders there is further inconsistency by the use of triage in some areas.

OOCD graphic