Tens of thousands of violent thugs are escaping a criminal record simply by saying sorry to the victim.
Almost 34,000 violent criminals – including some who have carried out knife crimes, sexual assaults and serious assaults – were dealt with using ‘community resolutions’ last year.
They avoid a criminal record because they do not have to go to court nor do they receive a police caution, which also appears in police records.
Instead offenders agree to apologise to their victim, and may pay compensation or carry out some form of reparation. In some police areas one in seven violent criminals were dealt with using community resolutions last year.
Criticism: Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper attacked the use of community resolution
Police guidance suggests officers should use them only for low level attacks in which no-one is hurt, or for anti-social behaviour.
But figures released to the Labour Party under the Freedom of Information Act show police are ignoring the rules. Last year, 33,673 violent crimes were dealt with under the scheme. That is a fifteen-fold increase in four years.
That total includes 10,160 serious violent attacks, including grievous bodily harm and other assaults in which victims suffered injury. Under the last Labour government, the number of serious violent attacks handled under the scheme rose from 792 in 2008 to 5,173 in 2009. It increased again in 2010 to 7,621 and to 8,523 in 2011.
Community resolutions were also used for 77 knife crimes last year and 89 other offences involving a weapon. They were used 2,000 times for harassment and stalking and in 2,500 domestic violence incidents. Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said the decisions were ‘bad for justice and bad for victims’.
She claimed police cuts were fuelling the rise because officers were under pressure to process offenders using fewer resources.
‘These figures are extremely serious,’ she said. ‘There has been a massive increase in the number of serious and violent crimes dealt with just by community resolution ever since the police cuts started, breaking all the expert guidance and promises from ministers.
‘Offenders who admit to serious and violent crimes are increasingly being let off with no criminal record, no justice, and not even a caution.’
The scheme’s defenders say victims – who must agree to the case not being prosecuted in the normal way – are more likely to be satisfied by the outcome. They also claim it leads to lower reoffending rates.
The Association of Chief Police Officers defended the use of community resolutions for serious crimes.
Greater Manchester assistant chief constable Garry Shewan, who speaks for Acpo on the subject, said: ‘Guidelines are in place to help forces decide where the use of community resolutions might be appropriate, but in every case this decision will be victim-led and above all reflect their wishes. In the main they are used to deal with less serious offences.’
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