What is an Out of Court Disposal?
Out of Court Disposals (“OOCD’s”) are one of several methods of concluding criminal investigations without proceeding to a formal court prosecution. They are administered to offenders to enable the police to deal proportionately with mainly (but not exclusively) low-level, often first-time offending and with a view to maximising victim satisfaction whilst addressing the offending behaviour and criminogenic needs of the offender.
South Yorkshire Police currently operates a 5 tier framework for Adult OOCD's for those offenders aged 18 years and over. This includes;
- Adult ‘Simple’ Caution,
- Adult Conditional Caution,
- Community Resolution,
- Penalty Notice for Disorder and
- Cannabis/Khat Warning.
For youth offenders (offenders who are under the age of 18 years), South Yorkshire Police operates a 3 tier framework for Youth OOCD’s which includes;
- Youth Caution,
- Youth Conditional Caution and
- Community Resolution.
When can an Out of Court Disposal be used and who makes the decision to administer them?
When considering whether or not to finalise an investigation by way of an OOCD we place the victim directly at the heart of our decision-making process. Our police officers and staff must take all reasonable steps to consult with and obtain the views of the victim on the appropriate outcome to any investigation.
While the victim’s wishes will always be considered very carefully, there are nevertheless strict criteria which must be met before an OOCD or any other outcome disposal can be used. The police must, amongst other things, consider the seriousness and circumstances of the offence, the available evidence and public interest, the impact of the offence on the victim, the previous offending history of the offender, whether the offence is admitted and the appropriateness of any potential conditions to be attached to the disposal. Therefore, the final decision on whether an OOCD should be used rests with the professional judgement of the police and/or the Crown Prosecution Service.
How do you ensure that Out of Court Disposals are used appropriately?
Authorisation and administration of all OOCD’s must be completed lawfully, legitimately, ethically and in accordance with local policy and National Guidance. This is key to ensuring crime data accuracy, improving victim satisfaction, maintaining confidence and appropriately addressing offending behaviour.
Through regular scrutiny of outcomes, we seek to ensure that there is appropriate use of OOCD’s across the Force so that we and the public can be confident that OOCD’s are being applied correctly and consistently.
Supervisors are directly responsible for ensuring that officers under their command use OOCD’s appropriately and according to policy and guidance. Many OOCD also require authorisation from a supervisor of Sergeant or Inspector rank before they can be used.
Additional internal scrutiny around the use of OOCD’s is provided by regular dip-sampling of investigations by OOCD Leads and District Quality Assurance Teams and formal audits of outcome disposals carried out by our Audit and Governance Team.
We promote the appropriate use of OOCDs through guidance, training and monitoring as well as feedback to individual officers and their supervisors. There is also external oversight of our use of OOCD’s by an independent Scrutiny Panel.
What is the Independent OOCD Scrutiny Panel and how does that work?
The OOCD Scrutiny Panel is an independent panel of people comprising of Magistrates’ Bench Chair and Deputy Bench Chairs, a representative from the Crown Prosecution Service and a member of a victims’ organisation representing the victims’ voice. A senior Youth Offending Team representative, the Force Crime Incident Registrar and Force Lead for OOCD’s are also represented at meetings of the OOCD Scrutiny Panel but do not have a vote in panel decisions.
Members of the OOCD Scrutiny Panel have agreed to engage with the scrutiny of the decisions of South Yorkshire Police in dealing with offenders through the use of OOCD’s to enhance consistency, transparency and public confidence.
The OOCD Scrutiny Panel meets once every 3 to 4 months to dip-sample a random selection of investigations finalised with an OOCD’s and to check that local policy and National Guidance has been applied by the officer and/or the decision maker as appropriate to the circumstances of the case. The victim and offender details, together with any other identifiable data is redacted from the information provided to the OOCD Scrutiny Panel.
When considering investigations, the OOCD Scrutiny Panel will assess whether the use of an OOCD was either; appropriate and consistent with local policy and national guidance, appropriate and consistent (with observations) or inappropriate and inconsistent with local policy and national guidance.
The findings of the OOCD Scrutiny Panel will always be retrospective. The results are shared widely and offer an effective feedback mechanism to South Yorkshire Police for organisational learning and to individual officers for training or development needs, as well as identifying examples of good practice.