Police Cautions - They might not be what you expect!

It is a common misconception that police cautions are just a ‘slap on the wrist’. The reality is that receiving a caution can impact you in many ways including your future employability or travel destination for example.

Cautions are an alternative to prosecution which can be used when the police have sufficient evidence to charge a suspect with an offence and the suspect has made a full and frank admission to having committed the offence. They are often used to deal with minor offence committed by first time offenders. They are a formal way of dealing with offences but are not as bad for the suspect as having to go to court and getting a criminal conviction.

Cautions do create a criminal record which means that if you have a job which requires you to have a CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) check, the caution will be revealed. This could be a problem if for example the caution is for assault and you work with children or vulnerable adults. Each case will be judged on its own merits by an employer but it is likely to mean that some uncomfortable questions need to be answered.

A further problem could be caused if you are trying to obtain a visa to live in, work in or visit another country. If for example you have a recent caution for a drugs offence, this may have a negative effect on your application.

Cautions can be cited at court if you have to go to court for a similar offence and a record of them is kept on the Police National Computer which means that the police will always have a record of it no matter how long you live.  

It is therefore important that cautions are only accepted in the right circumstances and you know all the implications before accepting one, therefore seeking legal advice beforehand is essential. It is extremely difficult to overturn a caution once it has been given because the police have usually followed the right procedure and you have voluntarily agreed to accept one.

If the police offer to deal with an offence by way of a caution it is common to think that it would be best to just accept it so that you can get out of the police station as soon as possible. The examples given above show that making a rash decision in a pressurised situation at the police station could have far more implications than you first thought. Even if you think you have done something wrong, legal advice should always be sought first because it may be that you have a defence you didn’t know about or that the caution offered is for an offence more serious than the one that has actually been committed. You may also be eligible to have your case dealt with in more informal ways such as a Community Resolution Order or a Fixed Penalty Notice. 

When you are detained by the police you are entitled to speak to a solicitor. Terry Jones Solicitors have representatives available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Don’t make the mistake of seeking advice once you have left the police station because it might be too late.

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