A conditional caution is an out of court disposal (OOCD) issued by the police. It is in essence an alternative to a prosecution where the case may be relatively minor and where the police/CPS feel it is appropriate.
If a condition is not complied with, and there is no reasonable excuse, then a prosecution can be commenced for the original offence(s).
A caution not only prevents a suspect from having to go to court, but it also saves the government a significant amount of money.
Conditional cautions were originally introduced in 2003, but have been used in a very limited capacity. Often police forces would prefer to issue a simple police caution (or other OOCD), which does not involved the monitoring of conditions.
There has however recently been a push to review the issuing of police cautions; generally due to the perception that simple cautions were being issued too often and suspects were effectively “getting away with it”.
Also there was a feeling that there were too many different types of out of court disposals.
Is a caution a slap on the wrists?
A caution is not in reality just a slap on the wrists, as they are retained on the PNC until a data subject reaches 100 years of age, they can be disclosed in subsequent criminal proceedings, during immigration checks, and on standard and enhanced DBS checks.
Despite these implications, in 2014 Chris Graying, who was Justice Secretary at the time, announced a plan revamp the out of court disposal system with a plan to end PNDs, cannabis warnings and simple cautions and to introduce a two-tier OOCD system. The lowest tier being community resolutions, and for more serious offending, a suspended prosecutions, aka conditional cautions.
Police in Staffordshire, West Yorkshire and Leicestershire trialed the new two-tier system, with the resultant report being published in 2018.
With respect to costs, the two-tier pilot found that it cost 70% more to implement the new two-tier system. Essentially the increased cost was due to the additional monitoring that was required for community resolutions and conditional cautions.
There was also no evidence that showed the two-tier systems helped to reduce re-offending; re-offending within the following three months of an OOCD being issued was at 5% in both the two-tier trial and under the current system.
NPCC Two-Tier Out of Court Disposals (OOCD)
Despite the findings the NPCC have introduced a new two-tier national strategy. The National Strategy has not been put into a formal legislative footing due to Brexit, namely there has been no parliamentary time, but the policy is implemented as policing strategy.
As there is currently no legislative support for the strategy, and so no additional funding to sustain the new system, the NPCC have stated that police forces will implement the two-tier strategy “when it is operationally and financially viable within each force area.”
What this means is that simple cautions, PND and cannabis warnings may continue to be issued, particularly where a police force has limited resources and an inability to devote the extra resources to supervising conditional cautions/community resolutions.
For hard pressed police forces, of which there are many, conditional cautions have not historically been used given they are an extra drain on precious police resources. Without extra funding being put in place it is difficult to see all police’s forces rushing to adopt the new two-tier framework. If they do, it is possible officers will only impose conditions that require the least amount of supervision i.e. a letter of apology and/or a fine.
When can a conditional caution be issued?
A conditional caution can be issued for minor offences by the police, but for more serious offences they must get permission from the CPS.
In hate crime cases, or for domestic violence cases, a conditional caution will not generally be considered but they can be offered if approved by the CPS.
Conditional cautions can also be issued for “relevant foreign offenders” with the aim of securing the departure of the offender from the UK rather than incurring the cost of prosecuting that person.
Conditions imposed must be proportion, appropriate and achievable – in our experience the conditions our clients have been imposed have always been limited to the writing of an apology letter, and the paying of a fine.
Conditions are usually expected to be completed within 16 weeks, and no longer than 20 weeks (although may be longer in relation to foreign offenders) – most cases we have seen have a requirement to comply within 8 – 12 weeks.
I don’t agree with my conditional caution, should I comply with its terms?
Although each case will be unique, and you will need to take specific advice on your case if you wish to challenge your conditional caution, we would as a general rule advise anyone to comply with the terms of their conditional caution once it has been issued.
If you do not comply with the terms of your conditional caution you run a very real risk of being prosecuted at court, which would obviously be worse than your caution. A prosecution at court may result in conviction, and a possible prison sentence.
Can I Challenge a Conditional Caution?
It is possible to challenge a conditional caution, this can be done by direct appeal to the police, via the NPCC’s early deletion process, via High Court judicial review proceedings, possibly the ICO, or a combination of these processes.
It will very much depend on the facts of your case, but critically if you believe you are innocent, and you feel you were railroaded into accepting a conditional caution, then you may have a case to have your conditional caution deleted.
How long does a conditional caution last?
A conditional caution on a basic DBS check will become spent after 3 months if the conditions last 3 months or more, or on the date the conditions end if the conditions last less than 3 months.
With respect to a standard and enhanced DBS checks, a conditional caution will be automatically disclosed for 6 years, after which it will become “protected” (data protected) and will no longer be disclosed. The conditional caution will however continue to be disclosed if the offence is on list of more serious offences, in which case it will be permanently disclosed.
Examples of offences that appear on the list of more serious offences are ABH, affray and child cruelty/neglect.
Also a conditional caution can continue to be disclosed as “relevant information” on an enhanced DBS check after 6 years even if the offence is not on the serious offences list.
What is a youth conditional caution?
Youth conditional cautions are in essence the same as adult conditional cautions in that they are also suspended prosecutions. Two differences are however that a youth offender is supervised by the Youth Offending Team (YOT) and foreign offender conditions are not available for youths.
Youth cautions, warnings and reprimands are immediately “protected” subsequent to changes implemented by the government in November 2020. 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”.
Police Caution Deletion Solicitor
If you have been issued with any form of Out of Court Disposal (OOCD) then please get in touch. We have many years of experience of applying for the deletion of a wide range of OOCD’s including simple police cautions, conditional cautions, PNDs, community resolutions, Harassment PINs and cannabis warnings.
Along with deleting OOCDs we also have extensive experience of applying for the deletion of local police records from the Police National Database (PND) and other local police systems.
In addition we also have extensive experience of challenging DBS barring applications, and disclosures on enhanced DBS checks.
We offer fixed fees in most cases, initial instruction is via a fixed fee consultation.