Simple cautions are a non-statutory disposal available to the police to dispose of any offence committed by an adult and designed for dealing with low level, mainly first time offending. The Ministry of Justice issues guidance on the process to be followed by the police and the CPS when they are administering simple cautions for adult offenders. This guidance states that the use of a simple caution for indictable only offences should only be given following authorisation by the CPS. These will be cases where there were exceptional circumstances which would mean that it was not in the public interest to prosecute.
Since 2007 the overall number of simple cautions issued has halved. The cautioning rate, that is, the number of offenders cautioned as a percentage of offenders who were either cautioned or convicted, in 2013 was 20%; which has declined from a peak of 31% in 2007.