Should I Accept a Caution
A Police Caution is used in certain low level criminal matters, particularly where there are no previous convictions, to conclude a matter for which a person has been arrested and usually interviewed, and is a disposal used as an alternative to putting the matter in front of the Courts.
Common themes of calls we receive are:
“I was told by the Police to just accept the caution as that would be the end of the matter and I could go home”
“I was told by the Police/the Duty Solicitor to just sign the papers and accept the caution as then I wouldn’t have to go to Court”
“I only accepted the caution because the Police told me it wouldn’t be a conviction, but now my boss is threatening to sack me because it has come up on a DBS check”
“I accepted a caution for fighting with my partner, but now I cant get a job with the NHS as it shows on a DBS check”
“I accepted a caution 7 years ago for assault, but now I cant get a job as a teacher so I want to have it removed. How do I do this?”
Whether it is the stress of the situation, or shock at being in a Police Station and hearing words like “Court” “Conviction” “Prison” being thrown around, it is easy to accept a caution without realising the full extent of what you are doing. By accepting a caution you are accepting responsibility for the offence you have been accused of, the effect of which is the same as pleading guilty in Court. You are saying “yes, I committed this offence”. A caution can only be administered where there is a clear admission of guilt from the person being cautioned.
It is the end of the matter as far as legal proceedings are concerned, but there are other long lasting effects of accepting a caution which not many people seem to be aware of.
A police caution is technically a criminal conviction however it is spent as soon as it is issued. A caution does not have to be disclosed under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (eg on an employment application form) however it will still show on a DBS check. Most offences will drop off a DBS check after a period of 6 years however some offences (particularly for sexual or violent offences, even the most minor ones) will show up on a DBS check for life and cannot be removed. These are the kind of offences that can prevent you from getting or keeping a job, or working in a certain area eg healthcare, teaching, working with young people or vulnerable people.
You cannot have a caution removed from your record just because it is now causing you problems. There are only limited reasons why a caution can be set aside, for example if a person lacked the mental capacity to fully understand what they were agreeing to, or if there was a language barrier. These are some of the reasons the caution may be able to be set aside but in doing so, the matter would then be reported for prosecution through the Courts in the usual way.
So, to accept a caution for an offence can seem like the easy option, when you are in a police station, stressed and upset, and the Duty Solicitor is telling you it’s the best thing to do. You will avoid court, and you will be able to go home straight away.
However, if you are not guilty of the offence you should not accept a caution just because it is a quick and simple way to deal with things, as depending on the offence it can cause you more problems down the line, and you will still have a conviction on record.
We receive an alarming level of phone calls from people about a Police Caution that either they or a loved one have accepted, and wanting to know what can be done to remove it.
The truth is, very little can be done once you accept a caution. If you are successful in having a caution set aside then that does not mean the offence goes away, it will be entered into the legal system and go before the Courts. If you then plead, or are found, guilty you will then have a criminal conviction that will need to be declared until it becomes spent.
If you would like advice about a caution you or a loved one have accepted, call our expert team on 01623 600645.