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Does everyone who is charged go to prison

Question:

Does everyone who is charged go to prison?

Answer:

If you report a crime to the police they will record the details and start an investigation if they think this is appropriate. If a suspect is caught they will be charged, but they may not necessarily go to court to receive punishment for their crime. The latest statistics from the Home Office show that 72% of offenders are fined and 13% of offenders are given some form of community service. Only 7% of offenders are actually sent to prison.

Our article entitled The Annual Crime Statistics 2010 shows that in 2010, that 86,330 people charged with an offence are found not guilty.

If you have been charged with an offence, use our Find a Solicitor option to find an experienced and knowledgeable criminal solicitor near you.

Police Powers

After the police have caught a suspect they can refer the case to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) if they think the case should go to court. In many cases, however, they will decide to handle the case themselves if there isn’t enough evidence for a full prosecution.

The police can give a caution to anyone between the ages of 18 and 21 if they have admitted they committed the offence. There are two types of caution:

  • Simple caution. This was known in the past as a formal caution. It is used for offenders who have committed lesser crimes such as theft or anti-social behaviour. Simple cautions are used as deterrent so the offender will think twice about offending again. A simple caution will not result in you getting a criminal record, but your offence will be recorded on the police database.
  • Conditional caution. More serious crimes that an offender commits may result in a conditional caution that as its name suggests, places conditions on the offender. Conditions can include rehabilitation or reparation for the damage the crime has caused. In 2006, changes were made to conditional cautions. Now they include a possible financial penalty. Up to 20 hours of unpaid work in the community or the attendance at an institution for a maximum of 20 hours. These cautions are not a criminal conviction, but the details of your offence will be recorded on the police database.

Final Warnings and Reprimands

If you are under 17 years of age the police can’t give you a simple or conditional caution. Instead they can give a reprimand or final warning. Both of these deterrents are designed to formalise the fact that the police are aware of your offence. The reprimand or final warning is given in front of your parents or guardian. They will also receive written details of the reprimand or final warning the police have given you. The details of the reprimand or final warning are held on the police database. Anyone that received a final warning will also be referred to the Youth Offending Team.

Financial Penalties

The police can give you a Fixed Penalty Notice if you commit a minor offence. These notices can be given to anyone over 10 years of age, and can cost between £30 and £80. You may receive a Fixed Penalty Notice for excessive noise, not clearing up after your dog, littering or creating graffiti. These notices don’t mean you have a criminal record, but if you don’t pay them could go to court or find yourself in prison.

The police can also hand out Penalty Notices for Disorder. As their name suggests, these are for being drunk in public for instance. These notices can only be issued to people over 16 years of age and can range from £50 to £80 depending on the offence. Some offences that could attract these kinds of fines include: shop lifting (up to the value of £200), harassing anyone in public, destroying property (up to the value of £500), selling alcohol to anyone under 18 years of age or using threatening words or behaviour.

Young Offenders Pre-court Orders

The magistrates’ court that hears the vast majority of the criminal cases have a range of powers and sentences they can use to avoid sending an offender to prison. These powers include:

  • Local Child Curfew. The police can ban a child under the age of 16 from being in a public place between the hours of 9pm and 6am unless accompanied by an adult.
  • Child Safety Order. These orders are for children under the age of 10. If they have committed an offence, they will be ordered to come under the supervision of the Youth Offending Team (YOT).
  • Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO). These orders can be handed to anyone who is 10 or over years of age. They are for offenders who cause harassment in their communities.
  • Acceptable Behaviour Contract. The Youth Offending Team handles these contracts with the parents of the offender to modify their behaviour.Individual Support Orders. These can be given in addition to an ASBO and require the offender to attend sessions each week to improve their behaviour. They usually last up to 6 months.
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