Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has announced that serious offenders will no longer be let off with a simple caution if charged with offences that would otherwise be heard at Crown Court level.
Simple cautions are an immediate way to deal with people who commit an offence and admit their guilt. However, they are usually used for less serious offences that can be heard at a magistrate’s court and are issued at the discretion of the police.
When a caution is administered, offenders do not receive any other punishment and do not have to go to court, although it is added to the person’s criminal record and can be used for reference in any future criminal proceedings.
Last year, 493 such cautions were issued for more serious crimes and Mr Grayling said that the fact that some of the most serious crimes only resulted in a “slap on the wrist” was unacceptable and unfair.
Simple cautions for indictable-only offences, which are the most serious offences that can only be tried at a Crown Court, are only given in the most exceptional circumstances, when the sign off must be made by a senior officer not below the rank of Superintendent.
However, with the Justice Secretary’s announcement, police guidance will be amended in England and Wales so that simple cautions will no longer be available for these offences.
Other offences where simple cautions will be scrapped include possession of an offensive weapon, supplying or procuring Class A drugs, child prostitution and pornography and possession or supply of indecent photographs of children.
The announcement, made on the eve of the Conservative party conference, follows a review of the simple caution procedure carried out in April by the Ministry of Justice and a number of other partners, including the Association of Chief Police Officers.
Mackrell Turner Garrett Solicitors in London
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