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More than 5,500 extra court cases could be heard in East Lancashire
MORE than 5,500 extra court cases could be heard in Lancashire next year after plans to scrap cautions for ‘serious offences’ were announced.
The cautions for cases, which can only be heard in a crown court, will no longer be handed out, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said.
In total 5,504 offenders were given cautions across the county in 2012/13, including 61 for sexual offences, nearly 3,000 for violent crime, 157 for fraud and forgery, 845 for drug offences and three for robbery.
Cautions require suspects to admit to their crime but are not classed as convictions and are signed off by police sergeants.
The cautions usually remain logged on a person’s record indefinitely and are disclosed during criminal record checks.
But unlike convictions, they only have to be disclosed in certain circumstances, such as when working with vulnerable people, children, or in matters of national security.
Now, only in exceptional circumstances will perpetrators of indictable crimes, such as robbery, be given police cautions, and they will have to be signed off by a senior officer who is at least a superintendent.
National policing lead on out-of-court disposals, Chief Constable Lynne Owens, said: “Yesterday’s announcement has reinforced both the importance of discretion and the responsibility for oversight when simple cautions are being used in indictable only offences. We also fully support the conclusion that the most serious cases should always be heard in court.
“It should be noted that the use of simple cautions for indictable only offences represent a fraction of one per cent of the total issued.
“Therefore the police service would take the view that these are only used in exceptional circumstances currently. When they were used, the review found there were robust processes to ensure the decision had been taken on a sound basis.”
A spokesman for the Magistrates’ Association welcomed the move: “We hope that this Government initiative will provide the general public, and particularly victims, with more confidence when all serious crimes are dealt with in public and in a courtroom.”
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