There’s growing disquiet about police issuing cautions and offering restorative justice settlements to offenders rather than taking them to court.
Lincolnshire Police has been criticised over a case in Spalding when Hayley Clayton was knocked unconscious in the street – needing ten stitches in a head wound – and given a choice of cash compensation for her injury or a caution for her attacker.
The Ministry of Justice is clamping down on cautions, saying they can be “inconsistent, confusing and something the public, and victims, have little confidence in”. But Lincolnshire Police says it follows national guidance.
In Spalding we found public support and criticism over the use of cautions.
James Brooks said of Hayley’s case: “Well it’s a bit shocking I must admit.”
He spends his time dealing with shoplifting and says police are right to caution for low value items rather than take people to court.
He said: “It’s going to cost three grand if you include legal costs, all for the sake of a couple of quid.”
Anne Jones told us: “I don’t believe in letting people off. It’s like buy one, get one free.”
Tom Blowers and his partner Tracy Turke believe police often don’t prosecute because the Crown Prosecution Service say there’s a lack of evidence.
Tom said: “It’s a lack of information to the public on what happens behind the scenes.”
Janet Morris said: “I don’t believe people should be let off. If you can’t serve the time, don’t do the crime.”
Peter Kite told us: “I would think one has to trust the judgement of the policeman or woman dealing with the case to judge what’s appropriate in that case. A caution is quite serious – it means you are on the books.”
Soraia Lucas said too many people are let off, adding: “Definitely take them to court depending on how bad it is.”
• Crime victims will be allowed to speak to offenders in court to explain how a crime has affected them.
The Government’s Victims Minister, Damian Green, says the step will “give victims a real say in proceedings.”
Mr Green said: “It will enable them to feel that the whole process is much fairer and they have literally had their say before the judge passes sentence.”
Currently only parts of victim impact statements are read aloud in court by prosecutors.
Victim Support chief executive Javed Khan said: “We warmly welcome this decision which gives victims the choice to explain to a court in their own words the personal and emotional impacts a crime has had on them and their families.”