Hundreds of Westminster, Camden and Haringey criminals let off with no formal action

Hundreds of criminals in Camden, Haringey and Westminster have been let off without any formal action over the past 15 months, official figures reveal.

Police have been using community resolution orders (CROs) – an informal agreement between the victim and offenders – to deal with criminals, as an alternative to pursuing a case through the courts.

Although Ministry of Justice guidelines state such orders should be primarily aimed at first-time offenders committing minor offences, figures released to the Ham & High under Freedom Of Information laws reveal they have been used for offences including robbery and violence against the person, and have even been used to deal with sex offenders.

Between November 2013 and January 2015, 157 CROs were issued in Camden, with 182 in Haringey, and 309 in Westminster.

In all three boroughs a large proportion of the orders were used to deal with drug offences, theft and handling stolen goods, but a handful were used to deal with more serious offences.

When deciding whether to use a community order, rather than taking a criminal to court, officers assess the offence, taking into account the wishes of the victim and the offender’s history.

Under new legislation, each local policing body must prepare a community remedy document, which details a list of actions that might be appropriate for the offender to carry out, such as the offender making a apology paying compensation to the victim, or repairing any damaged caused.

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Westminster North MP Karen Buck said she was not worried about the high numbers, because she was a strong believer in the power of restoritive justice.

She said: “I wouldn’t worry about higher figures if it works, but we need to look at what the outcomes are.

“Victims need to be supportive throughout the process, but if it’s done well it’s a challenging and traumatic process for everyone involved, but it can be a truly powerful way of confronting criminals about their actions and changing their behaviour.”

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “Officers use their professional judgement to assess an offence, taking into account the wishes of the victim and the offender giving a full admission and offering an act of reparation.

“It is only once these needs are met, and the public interest fully considered, that we will use community resolutions.

“In some low-risk cases, community resolution is used for violent offences that, by their legal definition, would appear serious.

“For example, the circumstances of a GBH offence could be a dispute between school children that results in a small cut to one or both of the children involved.

“In a case like this, officers will speak to both parties and agree to an out-of-court resolution as the most appropriate result for the children and the school.”