Out of court action saving police time

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Criminals in Spalding are among thousands in the county being dealt with out of court in Lincolnshire for offences including sexual assault and robbery.

Police are using restorative justice rather than send offenders to court if they decide it is not in the public interest to prosecute them.

But although child rape is listed among 3,300 crimes dealt with in this way in the county, police say statistics should be viewed in context.

Spalding’s Sgt Stuart Hurst said he could not comment on how police dealt with serious crimes in other areas, but on lesser offences, dealing with them out of court often brought a fairer justice.

Sgt Hurst said in spite of the figures released, more people were still sent to prison in England and Wales than in India and Turkey.

He said: “Habitual offenders will never be dealt with in this way. But no two people will view crime in the same way.

“There are those who think taking drugs as a crime and others who believe it should be made legal.

“If two consenting teenagers under 15 were caught having sex, would it really be right to drag them through the court? It’s a tricky one.”

Among figures released by Lincolnshire Police, are a reprimand given for street robbery, 263 cautions for shoplifting, 54 cautions for heroin and cocaine possession and 367 cautions, 44 warnings and 93 reprimands for assault causing actual bodily harm.

Chief Ins Philip Baker, of the criminal justice department, said: “Cautions are not a let-off or a slap on the wrist. The offender admits the offence and it sits on their police record.”

An incident in Spalding where restorative justice has been successful includes a case of shoplifting at Sainsburys.

Sgt Hurst said: “Two lads were caught shoplifting and they paid for it by doing unpaid work.

“The victim was happy and the offenders were made to pay without the cost of police time and sending them to court.

”In most cases dealt with in court, compensation is never enough.”

Cyclists caught riding without lights in Spalding were also dealt with in this way, with police giving them the option to buy lights and have them fitted rather than face a fine.

Sgt Hurst said: “We knew that if they were prosecuted and fined they would not be spending money on lights and all but one complied and had them fitted.

“Dealing with crime in this way makes criminals accountable.”