Hundreds of people accepting a police caution may be catastrophically damaging their future career prospects, warns a defence solicitor from FDR Law in Warrington.
Last year more than 200,000 people in England and Wales received a formal police caution instead of having their case heard in a criminal court. The practice has now come under the spotlight as the Government launches a major review, following accusations that cautions are not being correctly applied just to low-level, first time offenders who admit guilt.
Gary Heaven, a partner and head of criminal law at FDR Law, believes many people arrested for low-level crime end up accepting a police caution as an easy way out, without realising that it shows up on all Disclosure and Barring Service (DSB, formerly CRB) checks - potentially barring people from professions such as teaching, medicine, the law and work with children.
He said: “The key point to remember, if you’re ever arrested, is that you are entitled to free legal advice. Some people are so shell-shocked at being taken to a police station they accept a police caution far too readily, without proper advice, when in fact there may be insufficient evidence against them or a perfectly legitimate defence.
“Of course in circumstances where an offence has clearly been committed, a caution is the best outcome for a defendant. But in my experience, people very often accept cautions even though they don’t necessarily accept they are guilty of an offence. They think it’s the lesser of two evils and a quick passport out of an unpleasant situation.
“But formal police cautions are always recorded and show up in any DSB or sex offender register checks. It is foolish to accept guilt, without proper legal advice, when it could potentially be catastrophic for your future career.”
The Ministry of Justice review is due to examine the impact of cautions on career prospects as well looking at the inconsistent or inappropriate use of cautions by different police forces. The Ministry said it would involve the police, Crown Prosecution Service, victims’ organisations, the judiciary and the legal community.
The review is due to report back at the end of May.
An emergency helpline is operated by FDR Law, day or night, which can summon a solicitor to a police station immediately. The helpline is 07808 140659 or to make an appointment, please ring 01925 230000.