Shoplifters ‘will be released without warning’ under government reforms

According to a former chief of police, more offenders will be released without even a warning of “low” crimes such as drug possession, shoplifting and criminal damage.

dr. Peter Neyroud, the chief constable of Thames Valley Police between 2002 and 2007, said the commotion posed the risk that frontline police officers were using community resolutions to get rid of cases rather than proceeding with full caution.

He said officers would opt for “cheap and cheerful” community resolutions to “get things out of the way” because the government legislation introducing the changes created more bureaucratic “hoops than a game of croquet” around more effective alternatives that would deter violators. can rehabilitate.

Violators handed down community resolutions are “light touch” penalties designed only for “lowest level” offenses where they avoid a criminal record or a police warning. Instead, they can simply say “sorry” to a victim, pay damages, or make reparations.

Two-tier system proposed

Under the amendments currently pending in Parliament, ministers will streamline out-of-court divestments into two levels of legal warnings. A conditional “distracting” caution aimed at rehabilitation will cause offenders to set enforceable conditions that they must meet within 16 or 20 weeks.

If they don’t follow the rules, they risk prosecution for the original violation. Conditions can relate to rehabilitation, such as treatment for mental illness or alcohol and drug problems. They could pay their victim compensation, agree a curfew or accept a fine.

Receiving this would be part of a criminal record but would be considered “issued” within three months and disclosed only at official employment checks for sensitive jobs such as education, social work or health care.

The community’s second warning would be similar to a community resolution, but would be required by law with fines for violators if they don’t follow the rules. However, the police will still be able to issue non-legal community resolutions.

Legislation ‘has more hoops than a game of croquet’

During a webinar held by crime advisory firm Crest Advisory, Dr. Neyroud, currently a senior lecturer in evidence-based policing at the University of Cambridge, said: “Frontline police officers would rather file a prosecution than do everything possible to try and comply with the bureaucracy of a distracting community of caution.

“The legislation seems to have more hoops than a game of croquet. And a real danger [is] that there will be a real hunger for community resolutions. Cheap and cheerful, just to get them out of the way.

“Ultimately, there’s a real possibility it’ll get back to where we were a while back, which devalues ​​the whole out-of-court divestment process by seeing it as an easy way to get rid of the case.”

Community resolutions account for 16 percent, or 164,000, of all 1.07 million offenses prosecuted by the criminal justice system in the past year. They are supposedly for petty crimes.

However, Justice Department data shows that violent crimes against the person, largely assault, accounted for a quarter of the 132,000 community resolutions passed in the year to March 2021, totaling 34,061.

There were nearly 400 sex offenses and 162 robberies that resulted in the criminals escaping court and getting community resolutions instead. Despite concerns about increasing knife crime, 1,392 violators caught in possession of a gun also received community resolutions.

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