Develop an out of court disposal scrutiny panel

An Out of Court Disposal (OoCD) is used in cases of less serious, and often first-time, offending as an alternative to going to court. This approach has several benefits and is often viewed as a more proportionate and efficient way to serve justice.

An OoCD can only be used in limited circumstances and when the suspect takes responsibility for the alleged offence. Methods for dealing with suspects in this way include restorative justice, community resolutions, conditional cautions,  cannabis warnings, penalty notices and fines, together with appropriate interventions.

OoCDs are administered without the involvement of the courts and so the public expects that the police, who in such cases act as ‘investigators, prosecutors, judge and jury’, have some checks and balances in exercising these powers. For this reason, the Police and Crime Commissioner has adopted an OoCD Scrutiny Panel so Dorset residents can be assured that the police are making appropriate and proportionate use of this tool.

The OoCD Scrutiny Panel comprises members of the public and experts from other agencies. It reviews a random selection of cases – reviewing 80 such instances in 2018 – with the panel determining whether each instance was appropriate and consistent with Dorset Police policies, the Crown Prosecution Service Code for Crown Prosecutors and the Victim Code. Feedback and recommendations are passed on to the Force for action and consideration.

The panel publishes an annual report of its activity, as well as quarterly summaries of the issues it considers. Dorset Police has welcomed this additional level of scrutiny and has implemented a number of process improvements following the panel’s advice. For example, the Force is currently investigating why rural areas receive more OoCDs than urban areas and will report back in due course.

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