The truth about cautions
Coronation Street viewers may have noticed a major legal blunder on a recent episode when it came to the issuing of a Police caution to Tim Metcalfe. Tim was arrested following an allegation of assault on Duncan Radfield, after he set wife Sally up following a fraud scam…
“They let me off with a caution… Luckily there were no visible injuries and nobody witnessed me hitting him.”
To begin with, cautions are only available where someone admits to an offence. Tim’s comment seems to suggest that there was no evidence against him. However, Police can only issue cautions where the following factors are present:
- The suspect makes a clear and reliable admission to an offence
- There is a realistic prospect of conviction were the suspect to be prosecuted
- It is in the public interest to issue a caution
- A caution is appropriate to the offence and the offender.
If there was no evidence against Tim as he suggests, there would be no realistic prospect of conviction. His comment would also suggest that he did not make any admission to the offence, although he does not specifically state this. As points ‘A’ and ‘B’ above are not satisfied, a caution should not have been available.
The fact that Tim infers there was no evidence against him is also an issue. Duncan reported the incident to the Police, which is how the Police came to arrest Tim. A statement made by a victim is still valid evidence against a suspect. There is no requirement to have any corroborating evidence, although such supporting evidence would strengthen the Prosecution case. A suspect can be prosecuted on the basis of a victim’s statement alone, as a lot of incidents do happen in private where they may be no corroborating evidence.
Tim’s comment, “they let me off with a caution”, minimises the seriousness of accepting a Police Caution. A caution is not just a “slap on the wrist” or an informal warning. Although a caution is not a criminal conviction, it will remain on the Police National Computer and will form part of your criminal record. It could then be referred to as bad character if you ever attend Court for other proceedings, may prevent you from receiving a caution in the future and could appear on an enhanced DBS check which could affect your ability to work with children and vulnerable adults. It could also have implications on you travelling or working in certain countries.
A Caution vs THE Caution
A Police Caution which is administered as a punishment is completely different to the type of caution that will be given to everyone interviewed by the Police as a suspect. You are only interviewed under caution if you are suspected as being responsible for a criminal offence, in order that anything you say to the Police can be used against you in any subsequent Trial. It is therefore imperative that you obtain our expert legal advice.
THE caution is:
“You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in Court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”
This does not mean that you have accepted A Caution. The Police are required to caution anyone they wish to speak to as a suspect in accordance with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.
A Police Caution as a form of punishment is a formal document that you need to sign which will set out the offence that you accept responsibility for. This will be formally explained and administered at the Police Station and the Custody Sergeant provide you with a copy for your own records.
If you require any advice on whether or not to accept a caution, or are required to attend the Police Station for interview, please contact our Police Station Representative, Hannah Mostoufi on 0191 232 9547.