Scrutiny panels were established in 2013 to review independently cases where an out of Court disposal, such as a caution, conditional caution or community resolution has been the method of disposal (dealing with an incident). The aim is to “enhance consistency, transparency and public confidence in out-of-court disposals. In short, the Panel reviews whether the police are being consistent and fair in their decisions when a case warrants some action but does not come to court.
The Panel members are five magistrates and a number of others who work in various services concerned with criminal justice but only two from the police.
It is not an appeals process. It cannot change the outcome of a particular case but ensures that lessons and observations are passed back to the police officers concerned.
Some cases from the previous meeting were reviewed in addition to some new cases (about ten of each).
If no discretion was given to the police to deal with matters this way, the courts would be even more clogged up than they are now. However, there is a fine and difficult line to be drawn. In a number of cases, the individuals had been stupid in their actions rather than full of criminal intent. However, in the wider context, the potential for a serious crime being committed was high.
The Scrutiny panel tries to ensure that this fine line is correctly drawn.