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21 March, 2016

Victims need a greater say in how police deal with offenders, says crime scrutiny panel

Victims needs a greater say in the way the police use out of court disposals (OCDs) to deal with offenders, says a new report produced by the Out of Court Disposal Scrutiny Panel, chaired by Harrogate solicitor Jonathan Mortimer and as set up by Julia Mulligan, the Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire.

OCDs are a quick and simple way for the police to deal with lower level offending and avoids the use of court action. Last year in North Yorkshire, the police used OCDs in nearly four out of ten crimes they resolved.

In response to concerns about their increased use, Julia Mulligan created a scrutiny panel in 2014 to examine the way they are used in North Yorkshire.

In its first Annual Report (2014 – 2015), the Panel’s independent chairman Jonathan Mortimer said the system of out of court disposals was mostly being used appropriately by North Yorkshire Police. But he said there was room for improvement – particularly when it came to the police taking on board the views of victims:

“OCDs 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 in the last 12 months, I believe that the public should have confidence that the system is being used appropriately by North Yorkshire Police,” said Jonathan, a solicitor at Raworths in Harrogate.

Julia Mulligan, Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, said: “I set up this panel to address concerns about the use of OCDs.  I am reassured that North Yorkshire Police are generally using OCDS appropriately, but it does seem that more could be being done to ensure the views of the victim of any incident are better taken into account and I want to see that feedback put into practice.”

Jonathan Mortimer added, “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.”

The panel reviewed 66 cases that had been resolved using an OCD to check whether the measure had been used appropriately, within national guidance and local policy and took adequate account of the victim’s view.

On average the Panel found that:

  • In 9.11 per cent of cases, police did not take into account the views of victims adequately.
  • In 8.15 per cent of cases, the penalty imposed was not appropriate.
  • In 5.28 per cent of cases, police exercised their discretion to impose an OCDs inappropriately, and
  • In 3.84 per cent of cases, the police officer gave the OCDs contrary to national guidelines.

The Panel also wanted to express its view that a high degree of professionalism has been shown by police officers in the manner in which they have investigated crimes and considered appropriate outcomes.