A record number of criminals, including robbers and sex offenders, are being let off with an apology, government figures show. This offers a stark contrast to the tough rhetoric espoused every election time by the governing Conservative Party.
Ahead of his election as prime minister, Rishi Sunak promised a “major crime crackdown” to tackle rising fears of criminality among the British public. Two years before this, Boris Johnson, like other Tory and Labour leaders who preceded him, also vowed to “come down hard on crime” by “coming down hard on criminals.” But data from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has revealed that more criminals than ever are avoiding punishment—even so much as a criminal record—simply by apologising for their wrongdoing.
In the year up to September 2022, 143,000 people accused of offences were issued with community resolutions rather than being prosecuted. These, according to The Daily Telegraph, included people accused of sex crimes, violence, and possession of weapons. The figure represents a 10% rise on the previous year. It also accounts for more than one in seven of the 1.37 million registered offences over that period.
The Telegraph reported:
Offenders handed community resolutions agree to say sorry face-to-face to those they have wronged and may be ordered to pay compensation or carry out a reparation. But they avoid a criminal record as they are not taken to court and do not receive a police caution.
Although they are designed for “minor” offences, the MoJ data shows that a record 42,016 offences of violence against a person in the year to September resulted in a community resolution, up 11% on the previous year.
Meanwhile, the number of theft offences resulting in community resolutions rose by 25%, to 15,459.
For years, police officers have also been handing out what have become known as “cannabis warnings” to most of those caught in possession of cannabis which, as author and journalist Peter Hitchens highlighted in his 2012 book The War We Never Fought: The British Establishment’s Surrender to Drugs, “is not recorded centrally. A person could receive such a warning in several different jurisdictions, without the information being shared. It does not create a criminal record.” What’s more, the ‘warning’ came about not through an Act of Parliament but was introduced by the police themselves, meaning, as Mr. Hitchens put it, that officers “had taken to making the law, instead of just enforcing it.”
The Telegraph suggests that the dishing out of community resolutions is an attempt by service officials to “avoid clogging up the courts with prosecutions.”
Reports in June 2022 revealed that South Yorkshire Police had used 78 community resolutions for accused sex offenders over a two-year period, rather than go down the route of prosecution. One victim of abuse told the Daily Mirror: “I am furious. It is just insane. Why on earth would you allow a sex offender to say sorry and not be criminalised.” The force responded that it had taken “into account several factors”:
We treat all reports of sexual assaults seriously, but on occasion community resolution is an opportunity to divert offenders away from the criminal justice system and provide an effective, efficient and proportionate resolution.