Community resolutions save 2,000 court dates

POLICE have spared more than 2,000 Suffolk offenders the prospect of court appearances over a 12-month period.

An estimated 4.5% of all reported crimes are now resolved through a community resolution, where the matter can be disposed of by an officer as long as they have the agreement of the victim.

The strategy is said to cut through red tape and keep police out on the streets for longer.

Between their introduction in September 2009 and September last year, 2,123 community resolutions were issued, according to Suffolk Constabulary figures.

Although the vast majority were for lower-level crimes, 11 of them were for serious sexual offences.

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However, Suffolk police are keen to stress decisions such as these are not taken lightly.

Superintendent Terry Byford, who has been leading the initiative, said: “Each offence that is dealt with through the use of community resolution must be discussed with the victim, and our officers would not consider suggesting this conclusion unless they felt it was appropriate for all parties concerned.

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“We take all reports of sexual offences extremely seriously and the cases that have been dealt with through community resolutions must be approved by a senior officer.

“We will also take the offender’s background into consideration and liaise with partner agencies before a decision is made.

“As with any reported crime, the wishes and concerns of the victim are always at the forefront of our policing.

“For a sexual offence, if they were not happy with a suggested conclusion then a full investigation would be completed.”

During an evaluation process, officers estimated that on average a crime took 11 hours to deal with from start to finish, whereas a community resolution cut the time to three to four hours. Supt Byford said: “Freeing up front-line officers’ time through the use of community resolutions by about seven hours per crime is having a big impact on officers’ workload, allowing them to provide a much greater visible presence in communities.”

About 1,300 police officers, police community support officers, special constables and other staff have been trained in the use of community resolutions since their inception.

According to a report by HM Inspectorate of Constabularies, there were 46,504 crimes in Suffolk in 2008/09.

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