Friday, January 12, 2007
Has anyone under 16 in your family been given an Official Police Caution?
I am interested to hear from anyone who has a child who has been given what is called an Official Police Caution.
I would be especially interested in any case where the youth or child was involved in a relatively minor incident at school that ended up with Police involvement.
Police Cautions are increasingly being used in cases where in the past the matter would have been dealt with by the school issuing a routine punishment such as a detention.
The matter came to my interest when the 12 year old child of some friends was involved in a schoolboy scrap. To his parents surprise the Police were informed - although like me they expected the Police to have better things to do than become involved in playground disputes.
Far from it, the next thing was their son was being interviewed by two police officers.
The net result was that -as their son was not denying events and admitted that he had been involved in the fight- the police offered to close the matter after issuing an official Reprimand - which is a letter from the Chief Constable, basically.
How kind, thought the parents, until I found out for them that the boys name and offence have been placed on the Police National Computer. His reprimand for a "violent crime" will also remain on the separate Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) database.
A reprimand for a minor offence stays on police records for five years, but it remains on CRB checks indefinitely; which means that in future he could find difficulty in any situation requiring a police check (these days such benign passtimes as being a Parish Councellor require a police check).
Police defend their decision, officials say that if someone makes a complaint or reports an alleged criminal offence to the police they are obliged by the Government's crime recording standards to record the offence and investigate it.
What they don't so readily admit is that 'offences' dealt with in this way (with a written reprimand) are subsequently counted as a 'case closed' and also then count towards police clear-up rate targets.
So not only have the police become a self appointed judge and jury but they have a positive incentive to get involved in twelve-year-old schoolboy playground incidents because they can get a 'quick win' without a messy and long court case.
In the meantime -because the police can only issue a reprimand in cases where the 'offence' is not denied- honest and repentant kids get a criminal record where those who don't own up often get off because the cases aren't usually worth taking to court.
How fair is that?