Suffolk/Essex: Repeat offenders avoiding court

HUNDREDS of repeat offenders have avoided court in the last year because more low-level crimes are being dealt with by police using “community resolutions”, the EADT can reveal today.

The strategy, used for the likes of shoplifting, public order and criminal damage offences, means an incident can be disposed of by an officer as long as they have the agreement of the victim.

Suffolk Constabulary is the second highest user of community resolutions (CR) in England and Wales, with more than 4,000 incidents dealt with in this way between April 2011 and March 2012.

Since community resolutions were introduced in 2009 there have been 8,439 over the three years but 13% have involved offenders who have already gone through the process and one in three were for offenders with some form of criminal record.

Hundreds of offenders have received more than one community resolution. Two people have been subject to nine.

A report by Suffolk Police Authority shows that in the last financial year alone the use of community resolutions has saved 28,000 officer hours and �625,000 a year, while helping keep bobbies on the beat.

Last night, a partner at a Suffolk solicitors firm said community resolutions could be a useful tool for dealing with low-level offending.

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Hugh Rowland, partner at Gotelee solicitors, of Ipswich, said: “The relatively high percentage of Suffolk disposals of this sort would be a concern if it was being used as a cheap and easy alternative to a proper investigation and consideration of the evidence or if frequent offenders were being diverted from the justice system for reasons of speed and cost.”

A spokesperson for Suffolk police added: “The victim’s wishes are crucial to any decision made, and a recent survey showed that 86.3% of victims who responded, were satisfied with the use of CR.

“The use of CR significantly cuts down on the number of criminal cases needing to be resolved in court and reduces lengthy bureaucracy.”

Essex Police said the use of its “neighbourhood resolution” restorative justice procedure was not normally suitable for repeat offenders in the county.

Figures showed that over the past 18 months there had been 4,550 offences solved by neighbourhood resolution, representing just 2.9% of recorded crime.