Police are under fire for undermining Lincolnshire’s courts by offering too many cautions and restorative justice settlements to offenders who might otherwise appear before magistrates.
Falling workloads are blamed by Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service for the “de-listing” of Spalding Magistrates’ Court, which closes on December 19.
Magistrate George Hoyles, who retired on Thursday after 25 years’ service, addressed Spalding court users privately before the start of hearings.
Mr Hoyles campaigned to save the Spalding court when it was threatened in 2010 and is sad to see it go now.
He declined to have his statement published, but – speaking later on Mr Hoyles’ behalf – his wife, Tina, told us: “He did say that there were fewer cases being taken to court and police were letting people off rather than taking them to court.”
Lincolnshire Police is facing a public outcry and a formal complaint after Hayley Clayton (32) had to choose either cash compensation for her injury or a caution for her attacker after being knocked unconscious in a Spalding street.
The Ministry of Justice will not comment on individual cases and a spokesman said decisions on cautions are “an operational matter for the police”.
She continued: “The Government is clear that serious offences should always be brought to court. That is why we are clamping down on the use of simple cautions and launching a review into the use of all out of court disposals – their use can be inconsistent, confusing and something the public, and victims, have little confidence in.”
Lincolnshire Police declined to comment while Hayley Clayton’s case is investigated by its Professional Standards Department.
A spokesman said: “It is not appropriate for us to discuss individual cases and we will be dealing directly with the victim in this case.”
The force issued 1,913 cautions in the year to March.
From April 1 to October 10 this year, some 1,137 cases were settled through restorative justice out of a total of 20,608 recorded crimes. Police say they stick to national guidelines for the process.