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Changes to out of court disposals

Out of Court disposals is a national and local approach to dealing with low-level crime.


Avon and Somerset Constabulary (ASC) has taken the recommendation by the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) that the framework for OOCDs available to use with adults, should reduce from five options to two. Police Officers may have been able to utilise the full framework of five outcomes in the past; Community Resolution, Simple Caution, Conditional Caution, Penalty Notice for Disorder and Cannabis/Khat warnings.

The two-tier framework has resulted in the Community Resolutions and Conditional Cautions being the only options available to use for adults when an offence is appropriate to be dealt with outside of the realms of the court.

There are two main reasons for this change. Firstly, is the need to make OOCDs more meaningful, impactful and effective.

The second reason is to simplify the process for Officers. With the multiple options available, there was confusion and a lack of confidence in how and when to use OOCDs, leading to their underuse.

With a Community Resolution, conditions can be attached for the offender to engage with on a voluntary basis, such as reparation, for example, paying for repair for something they have damaged, or a letter of apology.

This also provides an opportunity for the victim to have a say in the nature of the outcome through the use of the Community Remedy. Moreover, diversionary activities can be included to attempt to reduce offending.

The Conditional Caution includes conditions that the offender must comply within a specified time frame (usually 16 weeks). The Conditional Caution holds a more punitive weighting, as if breached, the disposal will be escalated to court in most cases. Conditions are, again, discussed with the victim and like the Community Resolution, diversionary activities/interventions should be considered as part of this.

The Avon and Somerset Constabulary Model

To ensure that needs are met in relation to changing the behaviour of offenders, the Constabulary has agreed on a model whereby a role will be created to assess the needs of offenders; both the critical needs around their offending behaviour but also the holistic needs of that person, which may include things like employment and mental health.

This service will be called ASCEND (Avon and Somerset Constabulary Engage Navigate Divert).

Where Officers identify a case which is suitable for a Community Resolution or Community Caution, they will be able to refer them to ASCEND. This victim will still be consulted as part of this decision making through the use of the Community Remedy.

The ASCEND worker will meet the offender face to face to assess their needs and form a condition plan for that individual to follow and comply with. Officers will be able to set conditions themselves where they are able to or feel that the ASCEND service is not required.

A similar model has been implemented in varied forms across a number of forces; for example Devon and Cornwall, Durham and West Midlands.

A key element to these models is the intervention pathways made available to use as the conditions, with these interventions seeking to address the offending behaviour. Where they are already being utilised in other forces they are showing positive results with reduced re-offending, reduced harm and reduced costs.

We will strive to achieve similar results through the ASCEND delivery model in Avon and Somerset. In addition to this, where criminal behaviour affects not just the community but households and the dependants within those households, we hope to achieve reduced risks and reduced adverse experiences to the network of that offender.

Domestic Abuse and Hate Crime with Conditional Cautions

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) guidance sets out that Domestic Abuse (DA) cases and Hate Crime should not be used with a Conditional Caution.

If this were to remain it would pose limitations as to what disposal could be used with these crime types under the two-tier framework, therefore through the use of pilots and evidence building, proposals have been made to the DPP across the country to uplift this embargo.

DA is further ahead in this consideration as a wealth of evidence has been building to show that perpetrator intervention does work at an early stage. The CARA model has set a precedent with this approach and has approval in its methodology from the DPP.

We have made an application to the DPP to utilise CARA with Conditional Cautions, which has now been approved and we are using Conditional Cautions for DA related cases.

Hate Crime is much more in its infancy in terms of being able to use it with a Conditional Caution. The DPP has requested that it must be consulted on nationally and where forces would like this uplift they must consult locally. This local and national discussion is live; through various local consultation streams, we have had positive feedback.

We shall continue to do this until the national consultation closes and we are able to feed into this. At this time alongside West Midlands and Hampshire, as the only forces exploring this opportunity.

Once a national level decision has been made and if a positive one, we endeavour to explore the options for intervention delivery.

Current and Proposed Structured Interventions

Below are a number of interventions that we currently have available in force:

Victim Awareness Course

Service: Victim Support, Perpetrator pays model

Offence category:

  • Theft
  • Criminal damage
  • Section 4 and 5 public order
  • Assault
  • Harassment

Victim Support review case by case so there is flexibility.

Change course

Service: Perpetrator pays model

Offence category: Kerb Crawling

Drugs Education Programme

Service: Delivered by AWP, Commissioned

Offence category: A onetime only opportunity where found in possession of drugs for personal use not supply. History irrelevant but engagement/responsibility required.

Project SHE

Service: Nelson Trust, Commissioned

Offence category: Arrest intervention for females who are in need of support and diversion. Age 18+.

Voluntary only for all offences except female perpetrators of intimate partner DA who will have this as a caution to comply with.

Restorative Justice 

Service: Restorative Approaches Avon and Somerset, Commissioned

Offence Category: Available across the whole criminal justice system. Case by Case basis.

Consider by RISE

Service: Perpetrator pays model

Offence Category:

  • Indecent exposure
  • Unwanted touching or groping
  • Inappropriate sexual conversations behaviour, including via electronic communications
  •  Fixated obsessive behaviour
Drug Awareness and Alcohol Awareness Courses (separate)

Service: Perpetrator pays model

Offence Category: Alcohol related offending and drug related offending

Crime Types

Based on demand areas, below are the crime types that we would like to also offer intervention for. Some have been identified; others await DPP decision making or tendering processes: 

CARA by the Hampton Trust

Service: Commissioned

Offence category: Domestic Abuse – intimate partner (male only)

Action: Pilot Award: Implemented 24th December 2018

Hate Crime

Service: No identified provider at this time

Offence category: Hate Crime National consultation pending

Action: Local consultation is live. Following consultation await final DPP (CPS) decision

This model allows for ASC to utilise readily available interventions that can be piloted within the local landscape, to aid us in shaping interventions for the future.

These pilots will show levels of need, effectiveness in changing behaviours but also continued learning around the gaps in need for offenders at this level. They will be subject to providing monthly and quarterly reports and will be held to reporting on specified outcomes.

The providers will also be asked to form part of a localised intervention working group to share best practice.

ASC recognises there are partners and organisations locally that deliver interventions and have a wealth of experience to offer, therefore where we are unable to utilise local partners in this early stage of delivery.

We hope that you will join us in taking learning from the pilots and where we are able to, utilise the findings in order to shape interventions locally.

Some of the interventions have included a ‘perpetrator pays’ method. Nationally views vary around the ethics of this; however, there are a number of reasons as to why we propose utilising this method for some of the interventions.

Firstly it ensures the sustainability of service but also maintains the capacity and quality to deliver.

Secondly, it could be debated the offender should face a punitive element to the outcome; therefore where a victim has been disadvantaged and harmed, a financial charge could be viewed as a positive and appropriate sanction, but also a deterrent. 

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