POSSESSION of weapons, drugs and public order offences make up the most crimes which offenders have managed to dodge being prosecuted for in favour of out of court resolutions.

Essex Police is one of eight forces which issued more community resolutions (CRs) in 2017/18 than it did in 2014/15.

Community resolutions are an out-of-court tool available to police, designed to tackle less serious offending and antisocial behaviour.

It means the guilty offenders behind the force’s 21,766 recorded CRs since 2014 won’t have received a conviction.

Last year, 46 per cent (882) of the nearly 2,000 outcomes for possession of firearms offences, ended in community resolutions.

But a spokesman told the BBC Data Unit the majority of these cases related to overseas travellers apprehended at Stansted Airport for bringing illegal items to the UK.

Gazette: He said: “As a result of our policies, Stansted Airport has held a consistently high number of community resolutions for certain offences since 2015. 

“These community resolutions relate predominantly to offences for the possession of a weapon, such as knives, which may be legal to carry in other countries, or pepper spray, which would be considered a possession of firearms offence.

“Airport security officers notify our officers as soon as a weapon is found and our officers will issue a community resolution.

“We record these offences as per Home Office rules and confiscate the weapon but we wouldn’t normally consider it proportionate to charge.

“More needs to be done to advise travellers to the UK about our laws on possession of weapons and we have written to European embassies to ask for their help in better public engagement.”Gazette:

Passengers walking through Stansted Airport

The BBC Shared Data Unit’s analysis of Home Office figures revealed police forces in England and Wales have resolved some 449,000 offences with CRs, making up 3 per cent of the 15 million crime outcomes recorded.

At least 500 of those were issued for indictable-only offences - offences which are bound to be heard by a crown court judge. 

Thousands were issued for grave offences such as child sexual exploitation and sex crimes, drug trafficking, stalking, arson with intent to endanger life and assault.

This has prompted concerns amongst experts who say it goes against legal guidelines.

Chris Henley QC, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, said these orders were designed to deal with less serious offences, particularly involving young or first-time offenders.

He said: “This shouldn’t be happening. It’s incredible someone who admits committing an offence of rape receives what amounts to little more than a warning.


Police cars outside of Basildon Magistrates' Court 

“It’s unsurprising offenders arrested for serious crime leap at the offer of an informal CRO. 

“Sadly, this is all about a lack of resources. The number of CROs issued in serious cases has increased significantly as funding has fallen dramatically. 

“This lets down both the current and future victims of serious crime.”

As someone who has written about justice and sentencing policy reform, Callum Robertson would have liked to see the data linked with  reoffending rates.

The legal policy commentator also said it was relieving to see victim-based crimes being targeted with resources by Essex Police, rather than CRs.

For instance, those issued in response to sex offences rose from seven to 17 in the past four years.
But Mr Robertson said these are “statistically anomalous”.


Essex-based legal policy expert Callum Robertson 

He said: “The number of drug offences being treated by CROs is surprisingly low. This indicates a lack of willingness among police forces to adopt a more practical approach to drug taking. 

“Secondly, the high level use of CROs exposes two crucial flaws in the administration of justice. 

“The first being that the result of sustained cuts to policing mean CROs are a more practical resolution than full scale prosecution. 

"The second is the CPS and criminal justice system simply don’t have the financial resource to administer justice effectively.

“But for summary offences, the evidence suggests custodial sentences are ineffective at reducing reoffending so CROs as an alternative is a very positive step.”

However, Mr Robertson added these need to be measured against a standard of success. 

“The response to this should be a call for more funding into criminal justice as well as an increased focus of CROs for drug offences.”


Cannabis inside of an evidence bag 

These resolutions now make up 10 per cent of the total recorded outcomes for drugs, up from 5 per cent in 2014/15.

But the police said they can be a positive way of dealing with drug possession, particularly when the amount is for personal use.

A spokesman added: “It can also be a way of resolving minor public order offences, freeing up custody cells and officer time for the more dangerous and prolific criminals.

“For violent offences, such as lower level assaults, a community resolution is often accepted by the victim. 

“Ultimately it’s about the right outcome for them and not always about prosecuting the offenders. 

“Our officers explore many forms of outcomes after an offence has been committed, and the majority of these still result in a charge or summons to court.”

When Essex cyclist Wolf Simpson’s assault was captured on camera in 2017, the driver who punched him after a collision was let off with a resolution order.


Cyclist Wolf Simpson, who lives in Colchester

Mr Simpson, however, denied having agreed to it, despite a statement from Essex Police saying he had.

The driver admitted to the assault and agreed to pay £200 towards the damage to Mr Simpson’s bike.

He said: “Essex Police misused the community resolution to avoid prosecuting a driver who clearly targeted me in a because I was legally cycling on the road.

“The attack could have killed me, but the police chose to do nothing despite clear evidence.

“I was told the matter would be resolved by community resolution. The police were supposed to ask me first but never did. 

“This was a clear abuse of the community resolution system.”