Sex Offenders, Stalkers, and Harassers Escape Jail as Police Issue Thousands of ‘Community Resolutions’

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 17: Serving police officers from the Metropolitan Police wear traditional uniforms at Westminster Abbey, ahead of a special service to mark 100 years since women joined the force, on May 17, 2019 in London, England. The Met has been celebrating the history of the role of …
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British Police are allowing thousands of sexual offenders, stalkers, and harassers to skirt prosecution in favour of out-of-court settlements, including apologies and stays in rehab.

A series of freedom of information requests have revealed that police forces across the UK have allowed some 19,405 harassers and stalkers to walk free and avoid receiving a criminal record in favour of “community resolutions” from April 2018 and December of last year.

During the same time period, 1,249 alleged sexual offenders were granted the same privilege, despite the out-of-court route supposedly being intended for less serious crimes, The Times reported.

Ministry of Justice figures also revealed that there were 167,000 out-of-court settlements in the year leading up to December, a jump of 18 per cent over the prior year of recording. This increase was in large part due to police heading out 135,000 community resolutions rather than prosecutions, which represents a 32 per cent spike over the previous year.

The paper claimed that during the coronavirus pandemic, police chief constables were ordered to not bring criminal charges when possible in order to ease the strain on the court system.

Police in Britain are empowered with the ability to either issue conditional cautions, which do result in a criminal record, or community resolutions, which do not, rather than referring the suspect to the justice system.

While guidelines from the College of Policing state that community resolutions are intended for low-level crime, which is “primarily aimed at first-time offenders”, police forces have used the system for more serious crimes, including carrying knives, paedophilia, child cruelty, and racially aggravated harassment.

Offenders who receive a community resolution are asked to attend rehab courses, offer compensation to their victim, or even just to apologise in order to avoid jail time.

Commander Alison Heydari, of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, defended the use of out-of-court settlements by the police, saying: “Community resolutions and other out-of-court disposals are used in around 1 per cent of sexual cases. For example, they are sometimes applied where schoolchildren share inappropriate images or in cases of sex between under-age children.

“We have made it clear that out-of-court disposals are not to be used in serious cases. Officers take into consideration all circumstances of a case, such as if an offender has accepted responsibility and has no previous offending history that is relevant to that crime, are considered unlikely to reoffend and can be given a sanction that deters further offending.

“Community resolutions help police handle low-level offending proportionately. They can involve making amends, apologising to their victim or undertaking education. Victims’ wishes are central to our decision-making and officers have established tools and guidance to help them reach the right outcome. Our decisions are thoroughly examined by force scrutiny panels.”

Women’s groups have accused the police of downplaying the threat of sexual harassment and stalking, as they could lead to more serious crimes, including murder.

A solicitor for the Centre for Women’s Justice, Nogah Ofer said while community resolutions may be appropriate for some crime, she said that it was wrong for stalkers and harassers to benefit from the scheme as 45 per cent of such cases involved domestic abuse.

“Stalking and harassment is a really gendered crime. Eighty per cent of victims are women. There is a very strong link between stalking and homicide so it has quite a lot of high-risk indicators,” Ofer said.

She added: “By its nature, it has often been a recurring offence already. A lot of harassment and stalking cases are bound to be domestic abuse so charges are always the preferred option,” and that it is a “huge problem” for stalking and harassment to be minimised in such a way by the police.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

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