The Cautious Approach - Police cautions and the impact on youth reoffending

25 September 2017


Previous research into youth diversionary practices has shown that diverting young people away from the formal court system leads to a positive impact on youth reoffending behaviour. A number of studies have examined the impact of police cautions or youth conferences compared to formal court proceedings. However, there is a paucity of studies which focus purely on the impact of police dispositions at the pre-court stage. The current study examines the characteristics that impact on a young person receiving a caution as opposed to a charge from police and the impact this has on reoffending within a twelve month follow up period. A cohort of 5,981 young people who were recorded as allegedly committing an offence between 1 April 2015 and 31 March 2016 were included in this study. Fifty-six percent of the cohort received a caution and the remaining 44% were charged by police. A logistic regression model was constructed to examine the differences between the cautioned and charged young people for demographic, offending history and incident characteristics. This model was used to develop a propensity score for each young person which was then used to match a group of cautioned young people to a group of charged young people. Consistent with findings of previous studies, young people who were cautioned were less likely to reoffend than those charged. The current study also found a longer duration between the index incident and their first reoffending incident for cautioned young people as opposed to those charged.

One year reoffending rates for matched cautioned and charged young people, by selected offence subdivisions

Crime Statistics Agency, 2017
Crime Statistics Agency, 2017
Date of Publication


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