John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley, Liberal Democrat)
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to the oral answer of 13 February 2006, Official Report, column 1134, on crime prevention, if he will amend the guidance issued on the use of cautions.
Fiona Mactaggart (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office; Slough, Labour)
One of the main aims of the caution, as stated in the Cautioning of Adult Offenders Circular 30/2005 issued by the Office for Criminal Justice Reform is to reduce the likelihood of re-offending. It is not possible to set out definitive rules on the circumstances in which cautions are appropriate, because their use involves the exercise of discretion by the police who have to take into account a number of considerations in each case. These considerations include whether a caution is appropriate to the offence and the offender and whether it is likely to be effective in the circumstances.
The circular advises that both national and any locally held records must be checked before a caution is given. If the suspect has previously received a caution, then a further caution should not normally be considered. However, if there has been a sufficient lapse of time to suggest that a previous caution has had a significant deterrent effect (two years or more), then a caution can be used. If evidence of repeat cautioning, of the kind referred to in the hon. Gentleman's question, suggests this is an issue in a number of other areas, we will consider revisiting the guidance on this point.