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Police cautions ‘to be scrapped’ in England and Wales

PA lack of officer training and funding for police forces could undermine Government plans to axe police cautions, the Police Federation of England and Wales has warned.

The government is planning to scrap the use of police cautions – where those who commit minor offences are given a formal warning.

Under the new system, offenders would repair any damage they have done or pay compensation for less serious crimes. Those who commit more serious offences would face court if they fail to comply with conditions set out by police.

The new system will be trialled for a year in the Staffordshire, West Yorkshire and Leicestershire Police force areas and started this month.

However Paul Ford, a Police Federation of England and Wales spokesman, said austerity measures are making it difficult for forces to properly support victims and witnesses and this damages trust with communities.

And he warned this could threaten the positive change the reforms aim to bring about.

Mr Ford said: “If the pilot proves to increase confidence and effectiveness of the criminal justice system, it will be beneficial for everyone.

“It should be noted however that lack of sufficient training in this area may pose a threat to its potential success. The most effective way to prevent crime is to have a well-funded and highly trained police service that is visible and readily available in communities.

“It must be acknowledged that due to austerity measures, policing is under significant strain and is struggling to provide effective support to victims and witnesses.

“This fundamentally undermines confidence in the criminal justice system and must be addressed in order to allow for the potential positive change this pilot could provide.”

More than 230,000 cautions were issued in England and Wales last year.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said victims should not feel that criminals are “walking away scot-free”.

Mr Grayling said: “It isn’t right that criminals who commit lower-level crime can be dealt with by little more than a warning.

“It’s time we put an end to this country’s cautions culture. I think every crime should have a consequence, and this change will deliver that.

“Under the new system we are introducing, offenders will face prosecution if they fail to comply with the conditions set by the police, so that no one is allowed to get away with the soft option.”

Lynne Owens, chief constable of Surrey Police and National Policing Lead on Out of Court Disposals, said: “We recognise that the current out of court disposals framework has developed organically over a number of years and is complex as a result. Any reform must aim to simplify it in order to assist public understanding and reduce bureaucracy.

“The pilots seek to test a new approach which gives officers and staff the discretion to deal with cases appropriately. It will engage the victim in the process and require offenders to take responsibility for their actions.”

Date posted: October 31, 2014

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