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Home Office Explores Cautioning

The Home Office has released a consultation paper on a code of practice for conditional cautioning as an alternative to prosecution. Conditional cautioning is found in the Criminal Justice Act of 2003, which provides for the creation of a code of practice to be approved to by both Houses of Parliament.

Prior to parliamentary approval, the Home Office has published a draft of the code of practice for public comment.  

The Conditional Cautioning Code of Practice

  • sets out as the basic criteria for a conditional caution that the suspect is 18 or over, that he/she admits the offence, and that there is enough evidence to charge;
  • explains that it is the ‘relevant prosecutor’ (usually the CPS) who determines whether a conditional caution is appropriate;
  • advises that a conditional caution will usually be appropriate where conditions that facilitate the rehabilitation of the offender or ensure that the offender makes reparation for the offence, or both, will provide a proportionate response to the offence bearing in mind the public interest;
  • makes clear that only exceptionally should a person who has recently been cautioned for a similar offence be given a conditional caution;
  • requires that a suspect should have made a clear and reliable admission under a cautioned interview before the prospect of a conditional caution is mentioned;
  • explains that conditions must be proportionate, achievable and appropriate, and have reparation or rehabilitation as their objectives, and that a deadline should be set for their completion;
  • requires that it should be a standard condition not to re-offend within the period of the conditional caution;
  • emphasises the importance of robust monitoring of an offender’s compliance with conditions, requiring as a standard condition that they co-operate with monitoring arrangements, and report any failure to complete conditions and the reasons for this;
  • sets out the action to be taken in the event of non-compliance; the decision will rest with the prosecutor, but the usual outcome will be prosecution for the original offence;
  • encourages contact with victims to ascertain their views; and
  • includes guidance about the use of Restorative Justice processes, for those areas which choose to deliver conditional cautions in a restorative manner[1].

The Home Office requests that responses to the draft code of practice be returned by 31 March 2004. For more information see the consultation documents at or contact the Home Office: 

Chukwuma Uju

Home Office

Room 356

50 Queen Anne’s Gate

London SW1H 9AT

Tel: 020 7273 4316

Fax: 020 7273 4505


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