Out-of-court disposals

One of several methods of concluding the action of the criminal justice system in respect of a crime without proceeding to a prosecution. They are administered by the police, and help them to deal quickly and proportionately with low-level, often first-time offences. They include:

  • cautions;
  • cannabis warnings;
  • penalty notices for disorder; and
  • community resolutions.

Some have a statutory basis and some don’t; they are explained more fully in our 2014 report Crime-recording: making the victim count.

In 2022, the Government legislated for a change to adult out-of-court disposals. The new framework will reduce the number of adult out-of-court disposals from six to two, comprising an upper tier disposal titled ‘Diversionary caution’ and a lower tier disposal titled ‘Community caution’. The intention is for the police to gradually move to the new system. The out-of-court disposal system for children will remain unchanged.

Back to Glossary