Community Resolutions provide an opportunity for the police to deal with appropriate low level offences and offenders without recourse to formal criminal justice sanctions. This could include a simple apology, an offer of compensation or a promise to clear up any graffiti or criminal damage.
Many of the crimes the police investigate are not committed by prolific, dangerous offenders. Sometimes they are a momentary lapse in judgement by otherwise law abiding people.
The decision to give someone a criminal record is not one taken lightly, and the police understand that some victims want an outcome that does not involve a full judicial process.
Community Resolutions offer victims an informal, flexible response to the matter they have reported. They empower victims by allowing them to have a say in how their matter is dealt with.
At the same time, they offer offenders a ‘second chance’ - an opportunity to make amends for their mistakes without suffering the consequences of a criminal conviction which can dramatically alter future life chances. They provide an opportunity for offenders to better understand the impact they have had on their victims, and to make amends for the harm they have caused.
Community Resolutions also allow officers the opportunity to deal with matters in the quickest, simplest fashion. In doing so, they help to ensure that the officers, who serve the public, are able to do more with their time.
However, the need for efficiency should never outweigh the overriding goals of protecting and serving our communities.
Community Resolutions are aimed at first-time offenders for less serious offences. Where the offence in question is not serious and appears to be an isolated incident, a Community Resolution offers the offender a ‘second chance’, provided they make amends to the victim.
As a rule an offender should not receive more than two community resolutions and if a second resolution is given, it should contain an element to address offending behaviour.
Community resolutions do not constitute a criminal record and are not currently recorded on the Police National Computer. They are however recorded on police information systems and can be accessed for intelligence purposes. A previous Community Resolution will be taken into consideration if further offences are committed.
Community Resolutions are not disclosed as part of a standard check.
They might be disclosed as part of an enhanced check for certain offences in the ‘relevant information’ section, i.e. the offence has a bearing on the kind of work you are applying for.
Once an officer has decided that a Community Resolution would be suitable, under the Victim Code, they will ask the victim how they would prefer the offence to be resolved. There are four possible options, restorative justice, warning and agreement, restoration and rehabilitation. Officers are required to take the victim’s views into consideration but are not bound by them.
Restorative Justice meeting or conference
This is where a meeting, facilitated by the police, is held in a safe environment between the victim and the offender to discuss the offence and the effect it had on those involved. Sometimes the meeting itself may suffice as the agreed resolution. This is because many victims will be satisfied with the opportunity of meeting the offender and being able to discuss the incident. The offender will only be considered to have successfully participated in the Restorative Justice if they attend and engage appropriately in the process. If they attend the meeting but say nothing throughout it, this would not be full participation.
Warning and Agreement
This option is most likely to be applicable in the context of neighbourhood or anti-social behaviour matters where the crime in question is part of a wider pattern of behaviour. This option might be used to deal with an incident of criminal damage which represents the latest in a series of incidents of ASB. The resolution might be that the offender is warned about the impact of their behaviour on a victim and is then required to sign an Acceptable Behaviour Contract (ABC). It is not sufficient that the offender makes a general promise not to commit future offences. The resolution will only be complete once the offender had been warned and has signed an Acceptable Behaviour Contract or other relevant agreement. Failure to adhere to the terms of the Acceptable Behaviour Contract afterwards would present the opportunity to escalate enforcement to some form of civil injunction.
Reparation can be direct to the victim: for example, offering financial compensation, or engaging in some form of work to make amends for the damage they have caused. It can also be indirect: rather than doing something that directly benefits the victim, reparation might be to the wider community, such as participation in an organised litter pick or voluntary work. Officers will not agree to be intermediaries for the exchange of cash between victims and offenders.
Rehabilitative activities look to address the underlying cause of an offender’s behaviour. It is generally accepted that there are certain risk factors which will contribute to offending behaviour. This can include issues with accommodation, drug or alcohol addiction, physical or mental ill-health, family or children, attitude or thinking skills, education, training or employment or debt and financial hardship. In most cases officers are not in a position to provide the support necessary to tackle such issues, but Community Resolutions offer an opportunity to signpost offenders to interventions delivered by partner agencies. For example if an individual is committing crime due to drug abuse issue they may be required to engage with substance abuse support workers.
Victim Awareness Course
An offender who plays down the impact of their behaviour may be required to attend a victim awareness course. This will allow them to better understand the harm their behaviour has caused.
When a Community Resolution is completed by a ‘youth’ (aged under 18) they will automatically be referred to the Youth Offending Team (YOT). The Youth Offending Team may choose to contact the offender and/or their parents retrospectively.
In the case of adults, the resolution is complete as soon as all the conditions have been met.
If an offender fails to comply with the agreed outcome, officers can revert to dealing with the incident through the normal criminal justice process. The fact the offender has failed to complete the outcome can be disclosed as part of any subsequent court case.