Streamlining Out of Court Disposals Assessing the Impact on Reoffending and Police Practice

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Police services in England and Wales have developed varied approaches to the use of conditional cautions, and this study examines the effectiveness of one set of reforms: a Revised Conditional Cautions Framework (RCCF). With an overall aim of diverting offenders from the Criminal Justice System and addressing offenders’ criminogenic needs, various programmes of meaningful activity were mandated for offenders. The RCCF refers offenders to a relevant ‘pathway', in order to address their offending behaviour(s). If an offender fails to complete the activity within the relevant pathway, without good reason, they revert back through the court system. The aim of the RCCF was to apply meaningful conditions to the conditional caution (e.g alcohol educational intervention), in order to focus upon addressing the root cause of the offending behaviour. In this study, the authors evaluated the effectiveness of the RCCF in reducing reoffending. The research was conducted between January 2018 and May 2019 and adopted a mixed methodology of qualitative and quantitative research; notably, focus groups with police officers, semi structured interviews with offenders and pathway providers and an analysis of police data on offender compliance levels. We found that the RCCF is perceived by many professionals and offenders to provide a platform for tackling the root cause of recidivism and thereby reducing reoffending. It is argued that the premise of RCCF is one that conceives of offending in individualistic terms that pay insufficient attention to the social and economic context in which offending is situated. The paper also raises questions about the impact of the RCCF on police professionalism and argues that it might be understood as a restriction on the exercise of discretion since it further restricts officers’ scope to respond to offenders and criminal behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCriminology and Criminal Justice
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 21 Sep 2021


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