19 December, 2018

Commissioner publishes report on fixed penalties, cautions and community resolutions in North Yorkshire

North Yorkshire’s Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner is welcoming a new report from a panel chaired by independent member of the public Jonathan Mortimer on the use of fixed penalty notices, cautions and community resolutions in North Yorkshire.

Officially known as out of court disposals, they are used as simple, quick and proportionate sanctions for less serious crimes and are aimed at ensuring the views of the victim are more closely taken into account in the justice system.

Commissioner Julia Mulligan set up the panel chaired by Mr Mortimer, a solicitor from Harrogate, to review their use in 2014 in response to public concerns. By their nature, decisions about this form of justice are often made at the discretion of individual police officers.

The panel produces an annual report and assesses a sample of the disposals that have been used each financial year. Their analysis for 2017/2018 has now been published and finds:

  • A high level of satisfaction with the appropriate use of fixed penalties, cautions and community resolutions in North Yorkshire in accordance with national guidelines.
  • An increase in cases being dealt with appropriately – from 75 per cent a year ago to 85 per cent now. In only eight per cent of cases did the Panel find an officer had exercised their discretion inappropriately.
  • Victims views are being taken into account more. Three-quarters of cases now had the views of victims recorded, up 18 per cent on the last year.
  • North Yorkshire Police officers are showing a high degree of professionalism in the manner in which they investigate crimes and consider appropriate outcomes. There are also significant improvements in the recording of the thought process and actions which lead to a decision.

Panel chair Jonathan Mortimer said:

“It is encouraging to see improving statistics both in the appropriate use of out of court disposals and also an improvement by police officers in taking into account the views of victims.  We have also seen an improvement in the way police officers record their rationale for offending outcomes.

“Out of court disposals should not be used as an easy time-saving response to crime by the police. Their use must be proportionate and take into account the views of the victim. From what I and the panel have seen from our work over the last 12 months, I believe that the public can have confidence the system is being used appropriately by North Yorkshire Police.

“We have found some room for improvement, particularly as far as the victim is concerned, but it is clear that on the whole the system is being used correctly to deal with low-level offending here in North Yorkshire.”

Commissioner Julia Mulligan welcomed the panel’s report and the improvements that have been made, but made clear there was still room for improvement:

“I’d like to thank panel members for their work over the past year. Their help in scrutinising out of court disposals is important in providing the public with reassurance. It is encouraging to see an improvement across the board, but there is clearly a way to go, especially with ensuring the victims’ views are taken into account.

“I remain concerned victims’ views aren’t sought on every occasion, nor are those views always recorded well on police systems.  I will continue to keep a very close eye on this area of police business.”

Read the report