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Less is more – the case for dealing with offences out of court

Rob Allen
23 Dec 2017

The diversion debate is usually framed in terms of whether too many cases are dealt with out of court. A better question might be: how many cases which are prosecuted could be dealt with more effectively out of court?

A wide range of out of court options exist for adults. A community resolution, simple or conditional caution, drug warning or penalty notice can be administered quickly, cheaply and locally, allowing the police to concentrate on more serious crime. Diversion can work better than prosecution at reducing reoffending, and is generally acceptable to victims as long as they are kept properly informed. Many people who do go to court get low level penalties such as fines which could, in effect, be imposed out of court and which do nothing to help tackle any underlying problems an offender may have. So it seems there is scope for greater use of diversion.

In recent years, the use of these ways of resolving crime without going to court has declined, much more so than the number of offences prosecuted in court. This report, written for Transform Justice by Rob Allen, sets out the case for diversion and out of court disposals, the reasons for their decline, and measures that can be taken to allow diversion to fulfil its potential as a valuable first and second gear of the criminal justice system.