Evaluation of Conditional Cautions: Surveys of Stakeholders, Offenders and Victims

Harriet Pierpoint, Trevor Bennett, Eldon Maguire, Cynthia Pinto, Louise Hall, Susie Wreford

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    The Conditional Caution

    The Criminal Justice Act 2003 introduced a new disposal for adult offenders – the Conditional Caution. The disposal allows the Crown Prosecution Service to attach rehabilitative and/or reparative conditions to a caution. These may include, for example, drugs programmes or restorative justice interventions. Restorative justice can also be used as part of the decision-making process whereby conditions are agreed.

    The new disposal of Conditional Cautioning was piloted in eight Early Implementation Areas (EIAs) from December 2004 onwards, prior to national rollout. These were located in selected Basic Command Units in a variety of police forces.

    The evaluation
    This early implementation process was evaluated by RDS staff and the University of Glamorgan in collaboration with TNS. The University of Glamorgan and TNS had responsibility for the surveys of stakeholders, offenders and victims. These focused on: (1) stakeholders’ perceptions of the early roll out, impact and emerging problems and benefits of the Conditional Cautioning scheme, (2) offenders’ perceptions of the Conditional Cautioning process and impact upon them, and (3) victims’ satisfaction with the conduct and outcome of Conditional Cautioning and the impact upon them.

    Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 50 stakeholders, 17 offenders and 7 victims. The stakeholders included people involved in the decision-making process and in administering Conditional Cautions (such as police managers, custody officers and CPS decision-makers) and people involved in the provision of programmes or facilitating restorative justice processes (such as arrest referral workers, drugs interventions providers and restorative justice facilitators). The interviews with stakeholders were carried out between June and September 2005. Those with offenders and victims were carried out in August and September 2005.

    The sampling frame was provided by RDS. Unfortunately, owing to unexpectedly slow take up rates of Conditional Cautions and difficulties experienced in the EIAs (for example, in getting consent forms to potential interviewees), the sample sizes turned out to be much lower than envisaged in the original research specification. The low numbers of interviews (especially of victims and offenders) mean that the results are not necessarily generalisable, and have to be treated with considerable caution.
    Original languageEnglish
    Commissioning bodyHome Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate
    Number of pages90
    Publication statusUnpublished - 1 Feb 2005


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