Simple Cautions FAQs

1. What is a simple caution?

2. Are simple cautions available for all types of offences?

3. When is a simple caution available?

4. Are simple cautions available for offenders with a previous offending history?

5. What is meant by ‘accepting’ a simple caution?

6. Must a person accept a simple caution if it is offered by the police?

7. Is there a right of appeal against the administration of a simple caution?

8. How does the expungement process work?

9. How long will a simple caution remain on my record?

10. Will my simple caution always be disclosed as part of DBS check?

 

1. What is a simple caution?

A simple caution is a non-statutory, non-conviction disposal for adult offenders aged 18 or over. Simple cautions are normally issued by the police at a police station.  A simple caution is not the same as a conviction but can have significant consequences (see below).

2. Are simple cautions available for all types of offences?

Simple cautions are intended for low-level, first-time offending. Thus, simple cautions should not ordinarily be given for serious crimes that would be tried in the Crown Court or for certain offences that could be tried either in the Magistrates Court or the Crown Court. 

3. When is a simple caution available?

A simple caution can only be offered to someone who has admitted that he or she is guilty of the relevant offence. A simple caution should not be offered to an offender who has raised a defence (e.g. self-defence) or who does not agree to accept the caution. Finally, a simple caution should only be given if the police are satisfied that there is a realistic prospect of conviction, were that person to be prosecuted.

4. Are simple cautions available for offenders with a previous offending history?

Generally speaking, a simple caution should not be given where the person has been cautioned for or convicted of the same or similar offences within two years of the commission of current offence unless there are exceptional circumstances.

5. What is meant by ‘accepting’ a simple caution?

A person must understand the implications of acceptance, including that the simple caution:

a) will be recorded on that person’s criminal record;
b) may potentially be disclosed on a DBS certificate;
c) may potentially be disclosed to employers and regulatory bodies;
d) the person will be placed on the "sex offenders register" in the case of prescribed sex offences;
e) may be used in family law related proceedings;
f)  may be used in related civil claims; and
g) may have consequences for travel and immigration purposes.

6. Must a person accept a simple caution if it is offered by the police?

No. An individual retains the right to decline the offer of a simple caution and face being prosecuted instead. 

7. Is there a right of appeal against the administration of a simple caution?

There is no right of appeal once a simple caution has given and accepted. However, the administration of a simple caution may be challenged by a complaint to the police and an application for expungement. Ultimately, a person may also seek to have the simple caution quashed by a High Court claim for judicial review.

8. How does the expungement process work?

A person may make a complaint to the relevant police force and, where certain grounds are satisfied (such as the person having raised a defence to the offence before the administration of the simple caution) the police may expunge the caution.  Following this, it will be removed from the person’s criminal record, but it may a still be relevant for immigration purposes.

9. How long will a simple caution remain on my...

a) PNC record? Until the person is deemed to have reached 100 years of age, unless there are exceptional circumstances.
b) PND record?  This depends on local police force’s own policies and other forms of guidance.
c) DBS certificate? In general terms, so long as the simple caution remains on the PNC it will remain on any DBS certificate, except those which, under the filtering rules, should no longer be disclosed (See below).

10. Will my simple caution always be disclosed as part of DBS check?

In certain situations, ‘old’ cautions will not appear on a DBS certificate. The DBS service will ‘filter’ the individual’s record. The filtering rules provide that an adult simple caution will be removed after 6 years have elapsed since the date of the caution – and if it does not appear on the list of offences relevant to safeguarding.

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