Adult Out Of Court Disposals In The Police, Crime, Sentencing And Courts Bill

Published date15 June 2022
Subject MatterCriminal Law, Crime
Law FirmHickman & Rose
AuthorMs Aileen Colhoun

In a blog, Aileen Colhoun, partner in Hickman & Rose's Serious and General Crime department, analyses a little-noticed aspect of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill: the impact on adult out of court disposals.


Nestled amid the 14 parts, 20 schedules and 210 clauses of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill lies a substantial reform of the framework for adult out of court disposals .

Part 6 of the new Bill, which is now entering the final stages before becoming law, significantly reduces the number of out of court disposals available to law enforcement agencies and thus increases the likelihood of an offender receiving a criminal record.

This change has not, thus far, attracted a great deal of legal comment, but it could lead to significant implications for individuals facing the prospect of a 'low-level' criminal conviction.

The new out of court disposals

Out of court disposals are a means by which a law enforcement agency such as the police can swiftly and efficiently deal with less serious offending, without commencing a criminal prosecution.

In order for an out of court disposal to be valid, the offence must be eligible, and the offender must accept their guilt.

There are currently a variety of different out of court disposals, of which three are not recorded on the Police National Computer. These are: community resolutions, drugs warnings (for cannabis and khat), and penalty notices for disorder. Under the proposed new Act only community resolutions will remain in place.

The proposed Act also abolishes the conditional caution and the simple caution, replacing them with the diversionary caution and the community caution.

The distinction between these two new forms of caution is that a community caution cannot (except in exceptional circumstances and with the consent of the DPP) be given for 'excluded offences' which are indictable only offences or prescribed either way or summary only offences.

Common to both of the new cautions will be the imposition of conditions, which must be attached to each, with the range and stringency of conditions being wider and more rigorous for diversionary cautions.

Breach of conditions imposed on a diversionary caution can result in criminal prosecution, with a power of arrest attached. Breach of conditions attached to a community caution can result in a financial penalty.

Common to both cautions, as is the current position, is that there must be sufficient evidence to...

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