A police caution is an out of court disposal aimed at achieving cheap and rapid justice. A police caution can only be issued if the suspect accepts the caution and admits the allegation.

Admission to a Police Caution

If a suspect does not admit the allegation then a police caution cannot be issued. An admission to an allegation needs to be clear and reliable and freely given. What amounts to a freely given and clear and reliable admission is often open to interpretation. In a common assault allegation for example, it may be open to dispute as to whether someone has raised self-defence, or in theft allegation, whether dishonesty or an intention to permanently deprive has been admitted.

Reliable Consent to a Police Caution

Along with providing an admission. Consent to a police caution must be freely and reliably given, namely a suspect must understand the full implications of a police caution before the accept it. For example they must understand the impact a police caution will have on immigration, on employment, on fostering, on working with children or vulnerable people. A police caution will have a significant impact on all of these aspects of someone’s life, and so it is important that the police explain all the implications of a police caution in clear terms.

The police also ought to offer a suspect the possibility of receiving competent legal advice before a suspect accepts a police caution. Most often this will mean receiving advice from a duty solicitor. Sometimes, the police may tell a suspect that, because a police caution is minor (in their view) that there is no need for a solicitor, or will perhaps tell a suspect that waiting for a solicitor will mean they will have to wait in a police cell for a long time. Sometimes people simply fear asking for a solicitor may make matters worse and the police will be more harsh on them. If the police have unfairly deprived a suspect of their right to legal advice, it will form a basis to challenge the validity of a police caution.

Sometimes the police may hold out the offer of a police caution as an inducement to confess, this is strictly prohibited. An unfair inducement to confess could form the basis for the challenge to a police caution.

Police Cautions

Along with a simple police caution, there is also a conditional caution, a youth caution and a youth conditional caution.

A conditional caution requires certain conditions to be fulfilled by a suspect, such as writing a letter of apology or paying a fine, for the caution to be fulfilled. If the conditions are broken, then the police/CPS reserve the right to charge a suspect to face the allegation at court.

Police Cautions and Criminal Records

A police caution forms part of someone’s “criminal record”, what a criminal record is however will depend on who is asking.

On a basic disclosure certificate a simple police caution will not show up, a conditional caution will show up for three months or before if the conditions are satisfied.

On a standard DBS certificate most police cautions will not show up after 6 years, on an enhanced DBS check a caution is likely also not to be disclosed, but may be disclosed if the police deem it relevant to a particular role.

A proscribed list caution however, namely for an offence that is more serious (including offences such as ABH, sexual assault and child cruelty) will show up forever on both a standard and enhanced DBS certificate check. N.B. 2019 edit, Disclosure with respect to youth  reprimands/warnings/cautions are subject to revision by the government.

NB, November 2020 edit: Youth cautions, warnings and reprimands are immediately  “protected” subsequent to changes implemented by the government. This means that even for offences that appear on the DBS list of unfilterable offences, they will not be automatically be disclosed on an enhanced and standard DBS check. It should be noted however despite the changes, it is still possible for facts related to youth cautions, warnings or reprimands to still be disclosed on an enhanced DBS certificate if the police feel the information is “relevant”.

For more details on the implications of a police caution, please visit here: Implications of police cautions.

Police Caution Removal

If you believe that you, or loved one, has been unfairly issued with a police caution then please get in touch.

We are specialist solicitors in appealing unfairly issued police cautions. Please navigate through our “Recent Removals” section to see case studies of recent successful police caution removals.

Along with successfully removing police cautions for our clients, we have also successfully appealed the retention of arrest records and the unfair disclosure of information on DBS certificates.

DSB Barring and Police Cautions

Often when someone has received a police caution, especially if it relates to violence or a sexual offence, and where the individual works with children or vulnerable people, a caution will precipitate an investigation by the DBS into whether someone should be placed on the children and/or vulnerable persons barred lists. We have extensive experience of challenging DBS barring applications and also overturning unfair decisions to bar, for more information on our DBS barring cases please visit here: Recent DBS successes.

For more information in relation to what amounts to regulated activity with children with respect to enhanced certificates and barring, please visit here: Regulated Activity with Children