Rhetoric or restoration? A study into the restorative potential of the conditional cautioning scheme

Braddock, Robert A. (2010) Rhetoric or restoration? A study into the restorative potential of the conditional cautioning scheme. MSc dissertation, University of Portsmouth.

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    In December 2007, the conditional caution scheme was introduced in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, as a result of the Criminal Justice Act (2003). The overarching aim of this scheme was to provide an additional option to the range of ‘out of court disposals’, which can be imposed on offenders for minor offences without the necessity of court appearances. The conditional caution is an enhanced caution which allows conditions to be imposed, such as reparation, letters of apology or drug and alcohol awareness courses, which must be fulfilled in order for the caution to be completed. Restorative justice is also a core option with regard to these cautions. Criminological theory behind this process of justice can be found in the works of Braithwaite (1989), who states that shaming of offenders is a key way to reintegrate them back into the community, Sykes & Matza’s (1957) theory of neutralization, stating that defendants can commit crimes more freely if they can excuse their acts by finding reasons for their behaviour, and also Hirschi (2002), who stresses that bonds with society are key to avoiding criminal behaviour, and the importance of strengthening these bonds as and when crime occurs. This study analyses the applicability of restorative justice as part of the conditional caution scheme by canvassing stakeholders in the process to ascertain whether elements of restorative justice are apparent in the scheme, and whether there is scope for further expansion of restorative justice into conditional cautioning. Questionnaires were sent to victims of offences dealt with by conditional caution, police custody sergeants and also CPS decision-makers to investigate whether the concept of victim participation was possible, whether victims were satisfied with the present scheme, and also to understand if conditional cautions were truly restorative or alternatively a system to increase efficiency within the criminal justice system by diverting low-level offences from court. The concept of introducing victim-offender mediation as a condition within the cautioning process was not overly viewed as a positive step. The majority of victims were not in favour of this, and other criminal justice stakeholders were also divided as to whether this would be beneficial. The motivation behind these responses differed according to the role played within the process, with victims being pessimistic regarding the benefits of this approach, and criminal justice professionals expressing concern with regard to the time consuming nature of these activities. This concern clearly indicates the confusion with regard to conditional cautions, effectively illustrating the conflict between the scheme as a vehicle to implement restorative justice, and the scheme as an additional initiative to streamline the criminal justice system by diverting cases from court. Another example of this conflict was evident when analysing the communication between the police and victims. There were a range of responses from the police when questioned about the communication between personal and corporate victims, illustrating that communication was facilitated only when the victims were available to be communicated with. This indicates that time constraints were a specific deciding factor with regard to the process, and victims were only given the opportunity to engage in the process if they were available to do so. In order for conditional cautions to become truly restorative, a decision needs to be made to clarify the primary purpose of the scheme, and a stronger framework needs to be developed in order to ensure that conditional cautions are used when appropriate, regardless of the time constraints that are clearly evident within the police service.

    Item Type: Dissertation
    Departments/Research Groups: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Institute of Criminal Justice Studies
    Depositing User: Jane Polwin
    Date Deposited: 20 Jan 2011 12:49
    Last Modified: 28 Jan 2015 11:16
    URI: http://eprints.port.ac.uk/id/eprint/899

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