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Police Cautions - Is it too late to seek redress?

Police Cautions have been used for decades as an alternative to Court Proceedings. Principally they are used for first time offending considered to be low-level however can in exceptional circumstances be utilised in more serious offences.

Whether an offence or indeed an offender is deemed suitable for a caution is very much an operational decision of the Police and in some instances the Crown Prosecution Service. The offender must fully admit the offence. It cannot be provided if a defence is raised or if the offender refuses to accept a caution.

Crucially although avoiding the Court Process, Cautions still form part of the offender’s criminal record. They can be used in any future proceedings and may be made available to current and future employers as part of a criminal record check. Although deemed immediately spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 some occupations are exempted, which means that they are extremely relevant and can be very damaging.

All too often those under suspicion of having committed an offence take the potential disposal by caution as the better option in fear of being charged and having to appear in Court. They do so without fully appreciating the ramifications or the impact this may have to their current or future employment or in rare occasions, foreign travel. It is therefore vital that careful consideration is given before a caution is accepted.

There is no right of appeal against the administration of a caution once it is accepted, unlike a conviction. Redress rests with having to seek Judicial Review in the High Court. A recent decision in the High Court demonstrates that it is never too late to challenge the imposition of a Police Caution. In a Judgment handed down on 07 June 2013 the Court held that were a person who was cautioned in 2008 for an offence of assault did not fully understand the effect of the caution, it was just and proper to quash the caution. This was despite the fact that realisation did not arise until over two years later in December 2010.

The Police must at the time of imposing a caution, spell out in clear and unambiguous terms the consequences of a caution. To reinforce this, the Ministry of Justice has issued guidance to all Police Forces within a recent policy document which came into effect on 08 April 2013. If you are a professional and wish advice on the adverse impact of a caution call Bill Wilson on 0844 745 4003 for a free initial telephone discussion or email him on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.