Friday, December 02, 2011

proceed without caution

Now then, now then, what’s going on here ? The number of cautions given by police is running at about 645 per day, a fair reduction from the 715 per day handed out in the year to June 2010. That’s good news because from 2002 to 2007 police abused their power to caution, rather than take offenders to court, by steadily racking up the number to a peak of 1000 per day.

In a lot of cases a caution can make good sense, for example low value shoplifting by a first time offender. But for some offences it can never make sense and the only proper and just way to deal with those offences is by a court sentence. The Ministry of Justice seems to be pleased that cautions for burglary have halved since 2007 but they still run at 10 per day and that’s 10 too many. As I have written before, burglary (of a home) is a vile crime, more akin to violent assault, or even further along the scale towards rape, as it can cause the victims great harm and suffering for the rest of their lives. There is never an excuse for it and it is always intentional. It warrants more, much more, than a gentle finger wagging and a brief ‘buck your ideas up’ reproach.

At the moment you can park your car on a double yellow line outside a house, get out and burgle the house. You can get a fine for the illegal parking but just a ticking off for the burglary. About 1 in 7 burglars get away with no more than that.

Discouraging the police from cautioning burglars is not the right policy. As the administration of a caution is much less work than all that a court appearance entails, the use of them will continue. What is required is a change to the law which rules out the use of cautions for such serious offences. Sentencing should be left to the courts, who can apply consistency and punishments to fit the crime, and not dabbled in by police whose forte is elsewhere.



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