Thousands of people in the UK decide to accept a caution from the police every year rather than going through the whole process of going to court. A caution is often seen as a minor, administrative thing rather than a serious issue but is that really the case? For people in England and Wales, there can be more implications to being invited into the police station for a quick chat than you might initially think. Even a voluntary interview on an informal basis might be recorded, and should the police decide to take things further in the future, form the basis for a legal prosecution.


What is a Caution?

A police caution in England and Wales is a formal notice which the police will issue when you admit to some sort of criminal offence. There are two forms of cautions issued by the police. These are:

  • Simple – the police might offer a simple caution when they think there is enough evidence to secure a conviction in court and the person has admitted that they are responsible for the offence.
  • Conditional – this is the same idea as a simple caution, but with terms and conditions attached. This could mean, for example, that someone is required to attend treatment for addiction and if they fail to do so, their case is passed onto the court.

These types of cautions are not to be confused with the standard Police Caution, which is the warning you are given on arrest about not having to say anything, but that anything you do say might be written down and used in court.


Who Gets A Caution?

It’s up to the Police to decide who gets a caution, and which cases they would prefer to send to court. Cautions are offered as an option for first offences, and when the matter is relatively minor. If you already have a caution, then if you are caught doing the same thing again it is very unlikely that you will be offered a second caution.

You also have the right to refuse to accept a caution. If you choose this course of action, then the likely next step is for the police to charge you with the offence, and you will go to court. Depending on how your case goes, this could mean you end up with a more serious offence on your record than had you just accepted the caution.


Criminal Records and Cautions

Although cautions are less serious than convictions, they are part of your criminal record. If you apply in the future for a position which requires a DBS check, then your caution might appear on your certificate, if it is felt to be relevant to the position under consideration. Cautions are filtered out from DBS checks sooner than more serious convictions but may still appear. The best advice is always to speak to a lawyer before accepting a caution from the Police, so that you are fully aware of what you are signing, and potential implications.