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Resolving crime out of court

Evidence shows that resolving crime without going to court can reduce reoffending and address victims’ needs

Every year over a million people are prosecuted in the magistrates’ courts. Going to court is stressful and long winded for victims, witnesses and the people being prosecuted, and usually results in a fine, only a fraction of which end up being paid. It is also costly for an already overstretched criminal justice system. Some crimes do need to be prosecuted but court is not the only way, nor often the most effective way, to resolve the harm caused by crime. Transform Justice challenges the enthusiasm for use of courts and prisons to solve problems in our society. We advocate instead for greater use of ways to resolve crime without going to court, including out of court disposals, diversion and restorative justice.

Resolving crime without going to court

Diversion and out of court disposals are effective at reducing reoffending and addressing the needs of victims. But their use continues to fall, even more so than prosecutions. Transform Justice is working to reverse this decline so that these effective first and second gears of the criminal justice system are used to their full potential. We support police forces to increase their effective use of diversion and out of court disposals, and advocate nationally for policy change. 

Our work includes:

  • A messaging guide on how to communicate persuasively about resolving crimes without going to court
  • A guide for police out of court disposal leads on success factors for effective use of diversion and out of court disposals  
  • An annual briefing setting out the latest evidence for resolving crimes without going to court and a comparison of different police forces use of these options

Crime resolution tracker

Some police forces are making better use of out of court resolutions than others. Use our interactive tool 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.

Assaults on police and NHS workers

Violence and abuse towards police and NHS workers causes huge harm and has lasting effects on staff morale, absences and retention in key public services. Under pressure from unions, the government created a new offence for assaulting an emergency worker and quadrupled the maximum penalty for doing so to two years’ imprisonment. But are harsher punishments effective in reducing violence and abuse?

Even the government recognises that more prosecutions and harsher punishments are not working to reduce assaults on police and NHS workers. It is also having unintended negative consequences, sweeping more people with mental health conditions into the criminal justice system. There are more effective ways to reduce violence and abuse towards police and NHS workers. Our work highlights how harm from assaults can be better addressed through support for employees, diversion, restorative justice, and better training to prevent incidents escalating in the first place.