Victims' wishes are a key part of our decision-making process
I value the opportunity to respond to the Echo's front page lead of last week under the headline: 'Rapists, robbers and paedos spared jail'.
No doubt some of the newspaper's readers would have been disappointed, even alarmed at the issues which the headline raised – especially if they did not balance their opinion by reading your Comment article on page 34.
I hope readers appreciate that we are not and should not be the final arbiters on whether an alleged offender of a serious crime should be taken to court or cautioned and avoid a court case.
Let me first emphasise that under every circumstance where a caution is issued (and invariably agreed with the Crown Prosecution Service), the alleged offender must admit their guilt.
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Another point I wish to emphasise, as pointed out by Chief Inspector Phil Baker, is that the victim features significantly in our deliberations and would always be consulted where a caution is being considered rather than a full prosecution.
In certain circumstances the victim may not want or be able to attend court and give evidence and this can play a part in the decision-making process.
I would also like to emphasise that there are numerous checks and balances including the final decision in serious cases being taken by the Crown Prosecution Service.
Also, the expertise of the lawyers of the CPS is always available to us should we wish to consult them on a case in relation to caution or prosecution.
A further check and balance on us in this context are national rules which regulate which offences may qualify for a caution rather than a prosecution.
During this decision making process, any aggravating or mitigating factors are taken into account to establish if a caution is the most appropriate way to deal with the offence.
As Chief Inspector Baker also said, each case is reviewed on its own individual merits. Cautions are not simply, "letting people off" but having admitted the offence, the caution will be recorded on the individual's records.
Any relevant sexually-related offences for instance would appear on any subsequent Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) checks.
I hardly need have written this response to the article because the Echo eloquently covered all the other points I would have made in its comment column.
So, I would like to thank the Echo for the exposure to the issue and for its understanding of the way we operate.