When deciding the outcome of less serious criminal investigations, and particularly when dealing with offenders who have little or no criminal history, police officers have a number of options; offenders can be charged to attend court but those who admit the offence may also be eligible for an Out of Court Disposal of which there are four types:
- Community Resolution
- Conditional Caution
- Youth Community Resolution
- Youth Conditional Caution
All of these disposals require the investigating officer to consult with the victim and gain their views about the outcome. All will include a reparative, rehabilitative or restorative condition aimed at diverting the offender from future criminal behaviour.
As these disposals are mostly managed entirely by the police (the outcome of some youth cases is decided in partnership with the Youth Offending Service), forces are required by the Ministry of Justice to convene independent Scrutiny Panels as a governance tool reporting to the OPCC. The role of the panels is to ensure that the disposals are used in accordance with MOJ / Force Policy and appropriately in terms of the gravity of the offence committed, the victim wishes and the need to reduce future offending.
In West Midlands Police, there are three Out of Court Disposal Scrutiny Panels which cover the Eastern, Western and Central areas of the Force. They meet three times a year and are chaired by Magistrates. The panels are made up of Magistrates, YOS representatives, other Criminal Justice or Community Safety Partnership representatives and Community Members.
The Panels have the discretion to choose the offence type they review each time they meet. The panel chairs between them, select 46 cases to look at within that offence type. They are provided with summaries of the investigation, all details are completely anonymised.
Each case is categorised by the Panel as follows:
- Appropriate on the basis of information provided
- Appropriate with observations
- Inappropriate and inconsistent with policy
- Panel fails to reach agreement.
The panels cannot change the outcome of any case, but can provide feedback to the Force about the decision making.
From time to time vacancies arise for new members on the panels. If you would like to be considered for membership please email NJ_Project@west-midlands.pnn.police.uk. Please note the Panels all sit during regular office hours.