Headlines today from the BBC that 10,000 serious violent offences have been dealt with by Community Resolution. Really ?
The guidelines are they are to be used for low level, minor crime such as theft, or assault without injury. Over on twitter the trolls have already resumed slagging off the police – Labour have blamed it on budget cuts – rubbish. Its up to the officers how they deal with incidents.
BBC correspondent Danny Shaw says 2000 domestic violence cases have been resolved informally last year – Not on my shift they weren’t. I have NEVER authorised a DV being dealt with by community resolution.
One twitterer has commented that perhaps police are persuading victims not to go to court, but any officer will tell you we spend so much time actually trying to get victims into court not the other way round!
I will deal with the non DV cases first..
Actual bodily harm (ABH) – sounds serious, but under the national crime recording standards it can simple be ‘reddening of the skin’ or anything up to black eyes, or a chipped tooth. Serious ? depends on the circumstances. If two schoolboys fall out, and one hits the other that could be ABH. But why criminalise decent people who make a mistake without a lasting consequence? Take the same incident, but this time the culprit has been arrested for this before, and this time he picks up a piece of wood and uses it to hit the victim in a pre-meditated attack. The same injury is caused, so whats the difference ?
In the first scenario, that could be open to a community resolution, as its all about the gravity factors. The offender is sorry, its a one off, they will make amends. They also wont be prevented from getting a good job via a CRB check in the future because of something they did as a child.
In the second scenario, thats more serious intent, and I would never deal with it by comm res – a charge or a caution (if over 18) would follow. In other words it fits the crime, and thats what this is all about.
To issue a community resolution there much be sufficient evidence to charge, it cannot be used where victims refuse to prosecute. In my experience its usually first time shop theft, or minor damage to property that get the comm res. Its not about figures, the crime is still recorded and will lie ‘undetected’ by using a comm res to settle it. Surely if police were obsessed with figures they wouldn’t use it at all ?
Domestic violence cases
At any one time on my work station there are several wanted persons, most of whom are for DV related offences. Although the crimes are relatively minor (Criminal damage, common assault without injury etc) the level of investigation is comparable to a serious crime investigation. The DV element puts it into a category whereby several levels of police supervisors get involved and drive the case forwards.
The reason ? most murders result from DV households, and begin with these low level offences. But why do some of these offenders receive cautions ?
The answer is surprisingly simple – DV by its very nature is an emotive issue for those victims whose partners have abused them – they fear them, but love them, or they hate the police as they’ve been raised that way. They still call us though when needed. Either way they dont want to go to court, or get their partners arrested. Sometimes there will be evidence that the crime has occurred, and the offender has admitted to it. Perhaps its their first arrest. The victim wont prosecute, so what do we do ?
For non DV cases the law says police CANNOT issue a caution when there is insufficient evidence to charge. DV is a legal exception – in order to save lives and get offenders into the ‘system’ a caution is allowed – it will be for at least 5 years and will effectively be a criminal record that will show up on a CRB check. Try getting a job with a DV caution !
My main points are to beware the sensationalist headlines – I have NEVER issued , authorised or even heard of a community resolution being issued for a genuine serious offence – come on BBC just ask those who do the work and we will tell you.
If you rely on basic figures then thats just plain wrong.