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

Michael Rowe, Aaron Amankwaa, Paul Biddle, Lyndsey Bengtsson*

*Corresponding author for this work

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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 Caution Framework. 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 Revised Conditional Caution Framework refers offenders to a relevant ‘pathway’, 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 Revised Conditional Caution Framework was to apply meaningful conditions to the conditional caution (e.g. alcohol educational intervention), to focus upon addressing the root cause of the offending behaviour. In this study, the authors evaluated the effectiveness of the Revised Conditional Caution Framework 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 Revised Conditional Caution Framework 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 Revised Conditional Caution Framework 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 article also raises questions about the impact of the Revised Conditional Caution Framework 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
Article number174889582210874
Number of pages22
JournalCriminology and Criminal Justice
Early online date18 Apr 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Apr 2022


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