Initial findings from a review of the use of out-of-court disposals

Document type
Corporate author(s)
Great Britain. Office for Criminal Justice Reform
Ministry of Justice
Date of publication
1 February 2010
Criminal Justice Services, Offenders
Social welfare
Material type

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Since 2003 the number of out-of-court disposals administered each year has increased by 135% from 241,000 in 2003 to 567,000 in 2008 and peaked in 2007 at 626,000. Although the number of convictions has remained stable, the proportion of offences brought to justice outside court has increased from 23% in 2003 to 40% in 2008. This represents a fundamental shift in how justice is delivered. The introduction since 2004 of cannabis warnings, penalty notices for disorder (PNDs) and conditional cautions represented a series of pragmatic responses to particular operational challenges. In responding to any offence, the police officer performs a critical function as gatekeeper to the criminal justice system. Decisions taken at the start of the process determine whether an offender will enter the criminal justice system and, if so, the route through it they will take. is vital the public has confidence that these disposals are being used appropriately and proportionately; that they are effective; that there is consistency in their use across England and Wales and that the system is understood by the public and its operation is transparent.

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