In Brief

Police face ban on issuing cautions for serious crimes

Justice secretary says that cautions for crimes including rape and assault are 'simply unacceptable'

POLICE are to be banned from issuing cautions for serious offences such as rape and robbery under new guidelines from Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.

He will tell the Conservative Party conference that offenders will no longer be able to escape with "just a slap on the wrist" for serious crimes "that devastate lives and tear apart communities".

Under current rules police cautions can be issued, at the discretion of a police officer, when an offender admits to a crime. Often no further punishment is given.

According to the policing and criminal justice minister, Damian Green, cautions are normally a proportionate response to low-level offences, but "they are not suitable for criminals who commit serious offences like rape or robbery". He told The Guardian: "It's time we get tough if the public and victims are going to have confidence in the criminal justice system."

Over the past four years more than 2,700 offenders were given a police caution after committing crimes that could have resulted in a jury trial. According to the Daily Telegraph, these included 18 cases of rape, 564 of paedophilia and 225 of violent assault.

John Fassenfel, chairman of the Magistrates' Association, told the BBC that he is worried that cautions are being misused. Without a ban, he said, we could end up with "police being people who catch [offenders], people who prosecute and people who sentence". Sentencing should be the "responsibility of the judiciary" and not the police, he said.

Grayling's comments have been welcomed by victims who say their attackers were allowed to walk free. A victim of sexual assault, Lina Barnes, told the BBC that "it was very disappointing" that her attacker had only received a caution after "all the emotional turmoil" she had experienced.

The Association of Chief Police Officers said that cautions are always carefully considered and "it is done in an informed way to achieve the right outcome both for the victim and against the offender."

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