According to Ministry of Justice guidelines, cautions are intended to deliver swift and effective justice, reducing the burden on the police and courts, while delivering a suitable deterrent effect.
However a review of the system was recently announced after concerns were expressed that too many cautions were being issued to repeat offenders accused of serious offences.
A simple caution is a formal notice, issued by a police officer, once someone has admitted an offence.
A conditional caution is similar but the person must also agree to stick to certain conditions which may include paying compensation to the victim or issuing an apology for the offence.
While a police caution is not technically classed as a criminal conviction, the details are retained by the police for future reference and can be taken into account by a magistrate or a judge if the person is convicted of a further offence in the future.
Cautions may be disclosed to current or prospective employers and must be declared if the person is involved in certain roles such as working with children or vulnerable adults.
Cautions are also made available to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) which has replaced the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB).
Accepting a caution can affect someone’s ability to travel and work outside the European Union, with some countries reserving the right to refuse entry visas.
However unlike being arrested, a police caution does not necessarily make travel to the United States more difficult.
People with police cautions are still allowed to participate in the visa waiver programme, whereas someone who has been arrested – even if they are never charged – must apply for a US visa and undergo a formal interview at the embassy in London.
Anyone who has accepted a caution for an offence involving violence could also find it difficult to apply for a shotgun licence.
Last week a report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission recommended that anyone applying for a firearms certificate should be legally obliged to declare all police cautions.
External link: “What accepting a police caution means”
Author: Martin Evans for The Telegraph
Published: 18 June 2013