Challenging a police caution

If you have committed a relatively low-level offence, the police can give you a caution instead of taking you to court. Although you avoid going to court, there are some important consequences to bear in mind before accepting a caution.

A caution is automatically 'spent' straightaway, but it forms part of your criminal record and may be referred to in future legal proceedings and, in certain circumstances, may be revealed as part of a criminal record check. Although you do not have to declare a caution for most occupations, you may have to for certain jobs or voluntary positions such as working with children or vulnerable adults, healthcare roles or working in financial services. It could also make travel to certain countries more difficult, in particular the United States. It is extremely important to get legal advice before accepting a caution.

You can only get a caution if the following conditions are met:

  • You admit guilt and do not offer a defence;
  • there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction if you were to be prosecuted; and
  • you consent to the caution.

You can challenge a caution if any of those conditions are not met. You may also be able to challenge a caution if the police have not followed the correct procedure, for example if they have not allowed you access to a solicitor or if they have not properly explained the consequences of a caution before you sign the caution form.

There are two ways to challenge a police caution. Firstly, you can make a complaint to the police force; some forces, such as the Metropolitan Police, have a special department to deal with such complaints. Secondly, you can make an application to court for judicial review of the caution. Unless there is some reason for urgency, you may be required to try making a complaint before applying to court. However, it is very important not to miss the three month deadline for a judicial review application: if you have not made an application to court within three months of the caution, in all likelihood you will not be able to do so because it will be time-barred.

If you would like to challenge a police caution, please contact our Civil Liberties team without delay. If more than three months has passed since the caution was given, we will consider whether the caution can be challenged in another way, such as by making a police complaint and then seeking judicial review of any refusal to remove the caution.

Our Civil Liberties team has broad experience of challenging cautions; for example, Nia Williams has challenged several cautions with successful outcomes at an early stage resulting in minimal stress and cost for her clients, and Ceri Lloyd-Hughes is currently challenging a caution on behalf of a client who was the victim of unlawful police behaviour prior to her arrest which undermined her fundamental rights of defence.

Saunders Law - Protecting & Enforcing Our Clients' Rights

For a free, no-obligation initial discussion of how we may be able to help, please contact us today. We would be happy to discuss funding options, and you may be able to get legal aid if you are eligible. Call us on 020 3811 3293 or make an enquiry online.


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