Suffolk: Violent criminals avoiding conviction as community resolutions used more widely
- Credit: Archant
THOUSANDS of criminals who committed a serious violent crime in Suffolk last year were let off without a formal conviction, new figures have revealed.
A total of 1,305 offenders were dealt with by community resolution, which range from apologies to compensation, last year compared to just 44 in 2009.
The Freedom of Information request figures show that over the past four years 3,972 crimes were dealt with by restorative justice and community resolution which were introduced in 2009 as an alternative punishment for less serious crimes.
Crimes receiving resolutions have included common assault, threats to kill, wounding and GBH.
Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore defended the use of community resolutions.
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He said: “Just under 4,000 cases in a four year period is a small percentage with around 45,000 recorded crimes a year.
“We have to look at innovative ways of dealing with these crimes which are not given to people who are a menace.
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“We don’t want people to think it’s a soft option because it’s not.”
Mr Passmore added: “During the elections I said people should have a second chance but shouldn’t have a third, fourth, fifth chance.
“We don’t want to criminalise people but they need to understand they will be punished if they commit a crime.
“We do need to be careful we don’t use community resolutions for serious crimes and they are kept for lower level crimes.”
Crimes attracting the most community resolutions were common assault with no injury at 2,098 and assault occasioning ABH with 1,063.
Hugh Rowland, partner at Gotelee solicitors in Ipswich, said community resolution is an effective tool when used in the right way.
He added: “It provides a straightforward and resource light solution to disposing with minor criminal offences where guilt is admitted, which used properly can satisfy both the victim and the interests of justice.
“The community resolution disposal was never designed to be used for serious crimes.
“To use it in that way would not only thwart the interests of justice by diverting those guilty of serious crimes from the court system, it also has the potential to distort crime statistics.
“We are fortunate that in Suffolk community resolutions are not systematically used to dispose of serious crime.”
A Suffolk police spokeswoman said guidelines are set out nationally and adhered to, to ensure their use is proportionate and appropriate.
She added: “The views and wishes of the victim are always at the forefront of our policing and as such each offence is assessed on a case-by-case basis and discussed with the victim.
“Victims of crime have indicated that this empowers them, allowing them to have some say on how the matter is dealt with.
“Officers would not consider resolving a crime through the use of a community resolution unless they felt it was appropriate for all parties concerned.
“It should be noted that the category ‘violent crime’ encompasses a wide range of crimes at varying levels of seriousness from, for example, common assault (with no injury) to grievous bodily harm.”