This week the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill came before the House of Commons for its second reading and I made a speech to the House of Commons in support of the Bill.
This important legislation proposes a number of changes to the Criminal Justice System but also makes substantial changes to the way that out of court disposals, such as police cautions, are used by the police. Cautions play an important role in the Criminal Justice System but they should only be used for minor, isolated offending.
In the past the Government have issued guidance to police forces about the cautioning of offenders. There are still too many offenders being cautioned for repeated offending or serious offences. Bringing the rules about cautioning into legislation will formalise the caution system and ensure that the system commands public support to ensure that cautions are used only where the circumstances of the offence and offender justify it.
In 2007 the number of cautions and Fixed Penalty notices given to offenders were at their highest levels. The number has now declined nearly 45% but we must ensure that measures are in place to ensure that offenders are brought before the Court where justice is best served by that approach. There is no point giving someone a caution and then if they re-offend giving them another one. This approach just undermines public confidence in the judicial system.
It is also essential that the views of the victim of crime are taken into consideration when a decision is made about offering a caution. The Criminal Justice System is there to serve the victims of crime not the offender.