The criminal justice system is like a manual car: different gears are needed for different situations. Overusing the high gears (court and imprisonment) means the car won’t work as effectively, efficiently or economically.
Some crimes are best resolved without going to court, using the first and second gears of the justice system. Cautions, community resolutions, deferred prosecution or full diversion from the justice system are all effective options in preventing reoffending and addressing the needs of victims.
Some police forces are making better use of these options than others. Use the interactive tool below to see how often different police forces across England and Wales use out of court resolutions, compared to how often they charge people and send them to court.
For many low-level and first-time crimes, it’s being caught by the police that makes the difference, regardless of the sanction applied. The best approach may be to refer someone to services and take no further action. May be referred to as ‘outcome 22’.
Used for crimes which are more effectively dealt with swiftly and informally, often “on the street”. The person who committed the crime agrees to make amends in some way – whether by apologising or clearing up any damage done.
Given to people who admit to committing relatively low-level offences where prosecution would not be effective or proportionate. A formal criminal justice sanction that includes a criminal record. Currently being phased out in favour of cautions with conditions.
Like a simple caution, plus all those on whom they are imposed have to meet conditions such as taking part in a rehabilitation activity or paying compensation for damage.
A quick way of dealing with low level, antisocial and nuisance offending by issuing a fine. Currently being phased out and use has dropped significantly in recent years.
An approach available in a small number of police forces, where prosecution is deferred if the accused agrees to undergo a rehabilitation programme. If they do not complete the programme, they may be prosecuted. Does not require a formal admission of guilt.
Read what high-performing police forces are doing to overcome these barriers and make better use of the first and second gears of the justice
The public are overall supportive of policies to resolve more crimes without going to court. Most people agree that they tend to be a good use of police resources, a sensible response to crime and that they can help those who commit crime make positive change. Effective framing and clear language can boost public support for effective diversion policies further. Read more in our messaging guide.