What is the Out of Court Disposal Panel?
Cumbria ‘Out of Court Disposal Scrutiny Panel’ was established in 2013 and is chaired by Office of Police and Crime Commissioner. The intention of the panel is to provide transparency and accountability and to increase the public’s understanding, confidence and trust in how the Constabulary uses OoCDs, with particular focus on the delivery of appropriate and proportionate Justice.
The purpose of the Scrutiny Panel is to independently review a selection of anonymised cases that have been resolved by use of an out of court disposal. The scrutiny panel has no referral or appeals capability and is not intended to re-judge cases. It will assess the relevant processes, interactions and decisions to identify any areas for development and continuous organisational learning.
Out of Court Disposals allow the police to deal quickly and proportionately with low level, often first time offending which can be appropriately resolved without a prosecution at court. Delivered ethically, effectively, to the right people and in the right circumstances they provide swift and meaningful justice for victims, hold offenders accountable for their actions and reduce re-offending. The aim of the panel is to determine whether the method of disposal is considered appropriate, based on a review of the information/evidence available to the decision maker at the time. The panel will consider the offence category and severity of offence, evidence present at the time of disposal and rationale in officer’s decision making process and whether decisions were victim focused.
Who is Involved?
Independent Chairperson - Member of Police and Crime Commissioner's Office
Cumbria Constabulary Chief Officers
Lead Diversity Officer
Crime Reduction & Criminal Justice Partnership Officer
Crown Prosecution Service
Youth Offending Service
National Probation Service
Cumbria Independent Advisory Group
How are cases selected?
Currently cases are selected by two members of the Out of Court Disposal Panel, a member of Cumbria Constabulary and overseen by the Office of Police and Crime Commissioners. This ensures transparency, maintains public confidence and allows the system to have credibility in Cumbria Constabulary’s desire to be open and accountable.
- Category A: Offences with a classification that a member of the public might consider to be outside the scope of the Out of Court Disposal Framework, such as Assault with Injury, Domestic Violence, Hate Crime and serious sexual offences
- Category B: Offences featuring offenders with previous out of court disposals or criminal convictions
- Category C: Any crime which has any Hate Crime or Domestic Violence Marker associated with it
- Category D: A selection of Community Resolution disposal where Restorative Justice has not been utilised
- Category E: A selection of any out of court disposal where it is indicated that Restorative Justice has been utilised
- Category F: A selection of youth and adult cautions
What types of Out of Court Disposals are available?
A simple caution is a non-statutory disposal for adult offenders designed for circumstances where it is in the public interest not to prosecute but, instead to issue a formal warning.
In order for a simple caution to be issued there must be:
- A clear and reliable admission to all elements of the offence, which is recorded and compliant under Section 26 of the Ministry of Justice: Simple Cautions for Adult Offenders.
- Sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction in respect of the offence, if the offender were to be prosecuted (Sect 28)
- An agreement by the offender to accept the caution
A simple caution is not a criminal conviction. It is, however, an admission of guilt and forms part of an offender’s criminal record. If a caution is administered it will be retained in line with relevant legislation.
Adult Conditional Caution:
A conditional caution is a statutory disposal introduced by the Criminal Justice Act 2003. It provides an opportunity to achieve an early positive response to offending behaviour for those offenders willing to admit their offending and comply with certain conditions.
The aims of the conditional cautioning scheme are to:
- To offer a proportionate response to low level offending
- For Offenders to make swift reparation to victims and communities
- For offenders to be diverted at an early opportunity into rehabilitative services thereby reducing the likelihood of re-offending; and
- To punish an offender by means of a financial penalty.
A community resolution is a formal disposal that deals with low level offending. It empowers officers to apply their professional judgement in deciding whether a community resolution is the ‘right thing to do’ after considering the offence, victim and offender.
Any adult or youth can received a community resolutions but the following neds to be taken into consideration:
- Other considerations
Cumbria Constabulary considers the most appropriate offences for community resolutions are likely to be:
- Low level criminal damage
- Low value theft
- Minor assaults without injury
This promotes a more victim-orientated approach, focused on providing a better service to the victim of crime and the potential for engaging them in the process.
Community Resolutions with Restorative Justice:
Restorative Justice is a process that gives victims the chance to meet or communicate with their offender to explain the real impact of the crime. It is incorporated into the Community Remedy document. Restorative Justice is a voluntary process requiring the consent of all parties to participate and can be utilised alongside a Community Resolution disposal.
The process empowers victims by giving them a voice. It also holds offenders to account for what they have done and helps them to take responsibility and make amends.
A youth caution is a non-statutory disposal for youth offenders; they are used where it is in the public interest not to prosecute. Youth Cautions can only be issued to offenders between 10 and 17 years of age.
Youth Conditional Cautions:
A youth conditional caution is a statutory disposal for youth offenders introduced by Legal Aid, Punishment and Sentencing of Offenders Act 2012. They are caution with conditions attached and can be used where it is in the public interest not to prosecute.
In order for a youth conditional caution to be issued the following must be achieved:
- Offender has not denied the offence. Any previous offending and willingness to engage in process should also inform part of the decision making process.
- Sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction
- The victim should be consulted and views sought, however the victim cannot insist on the manner in which the crime is disposed.
- It must be considered that the public interest is best served by the offender complying with suitable conditions rather than a formal prosecution.
Penalty Notice for Disorder:
A Penalty Notice for Disorder (PND) is a statutory disposal introduced by the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001. The scheme provides an alternative means by which officers can effectively deal with low level crime, without the offender needing to appear before Magistrates Court.
In order for a penalty notice to be issued there must be:
- A reason to believe that an offence has been committed and that it is an offence covered by the penalty notice scheme
- Sufficient evidence to support a successful prosecution in accordance with the Code of Crown Prosecutions.
- No second or subsequent offence which overlaps with a penalty notice offence.
PNDs may only be issued for the following offences:
- Section 5 Public Order Act 1986
- Theft (only issued for shoplifting up to the value of £100 and not suitable for Theft by Employee or Making Off without Payment offences)
- Damage not exceeding £300
- Licensing offences (i.e. selling alcohol to a persons under 18)
- Possession of Drugs (Cannabis)
- Wasting Police Time