Justice Secretary confirms curb on use of police cautions

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Serious offenders will no longer receive a mere “slap on the wrist”, the Justice Secretary has said as he confirmed a major overhaul of the cautions system.

Chris Grayling announced yesterday he is scrapping simple cautions, which do not involve any form of punishment, for serious crimes such as rape, manslaughter and robbery.

Police will no longer use them for sexual offences against children such as child prostitution or pornography, possession of an offensive weapon or supplying class-A drugs, he said.

He had told the Yorkshire Post three weeks ago of his “anxiety” with the way police cautions have been used and promised a shake-up in the near future, following revelations that the number of people being prosecuted for crimes in the region has slumped over recent years.

Speaking yesterday, Mr Grayling said: “Last year nearly 500 offenders who admitted committing some of the most serious crimes escaped with a slap on the wrist.

“Quite simply this is unacceptable and unfair on victims. That is why I am scrapping simple cautions for all of the most serious offences and a range of other offences that devastate lives and tear apart communities.”

Government figures showed that last year more than 5,000 cautions were issued for the most serious crimes – those that would automatically be heard in the Crown Court if they went to trial.

These included 962 for possession of knives, 1,543 for other weapons and 54 for supplying or offering to supply class A drugs.

They were also used to deal with a raft of offences related to children, including seven for child prostitution and pornography, 183 for taking, distributing or publishing indecent photographs of children, 268 for possession of indecent photographs of a child, and 1,560 for cruelty or neglect of children.