Different penalties explained

Not all offences have to be dealt with by the courts. The police can deal with some people by using a range of alternatives to prosecutions these are explained below. This is not about 'going soft' on criminals: many people caught up in a life of crime have persuaded themselves that it doesn't hurt anyone, so having to sit and listen to the victim's view point is often harder for them than dealing with a court punishment.

Community Remedy

This is a pre-court, victim-focused outcome for low-level crime, for example, a smashed window, whereby the offender is given the opportunity to make amends for the harm that they have caused as an alternative to formal action ie prosecution.

More information on community remedy

Cannabis Warning

A verbal warning is issued by a police officer. This does not have to be done at a police station. If an offender is caught again, they receive a fixed penalty notice and if caught for a third time they are prosecuted, therefore a local record is held. A cannabis warning cannot be issued to a person under 18 years of age.

Penalty notice for disorder

An offender can pay a fixed penalty suitable for minor disorder offences, for example being arrested for drunk and disorderly. A local record is kept but the offender does not get a criminal record.

Fixed penalty notice - motoring offences

Minor road traffic / motoring infringements dealt with at the time by a police officer.

Reprimand (under 18)

A reprimand is a formal verbal warning given by a police officer to a young person who admits they are guilty of a minor first offence, for example, criminal damage. A young person can only ever receive one reprimand and cannot be issued with a reprimand if they have previously received a final warning or have been convicted at court.

Final Warning (under 18)

As with a reprimand, a final warning can only be given to a young person who admits their guilt. A final warning is a formal verbal warning from a police officer which is combined with support from the Youth Offending Service, aimed at preventing re-offending. A final warning may be issued to a young person who has already received a reprimand or where the level of offending is deemed higher and therefore a reprimand is inappropriate. A young person can only be issued with one final warning apart from exceptional circumstances where the previous final warning was issued over two years previously. A final warning cannot be issued to a young person who has already been convicted of an offence at court.

Reprimands and final warnings are not classed as convictions and are only given to young people who do not have a history of offending. These remain on police records to ensure we deal with any further offending appropriately.

Penalty Notice for disorder (16 and 17 year olds only)

An offender can pay a fixed penalty suitable for minor disorder offences.

Acceptable Behaviour Contract (ABC)

An ABC is a voluntary written agreement between a young person, usually aged between 10-18, and the local authority and police. Under an ABC the young person agrees not to be involved with certain specified anti-social acts.

The terms of the contract are developed and agreed with the young person in an interview. The contract is then signed in the presence of their parents or guardian, a representative of the local authority and a local police officer.

Anti-Social Behavioural Order (ASBO)

An ASBO contains conditions prohibiting the offender from carrying out specific anti-social acts or from entering defined areas and is effective for a minimum of two years. An ASBO may be issued to a person over 10 years old in response to 'conduct which caused or was likely to cause harm, harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household as him or herself and where the ASBO is seen as necessary to protect relevant persons from further anti-social acts by the defendant.

Drug Intervention Orders

Intervention orders can be attached to anti-social behavioural orders (ASBO); however, drug intervention orders are designed to tackle anti-social behaviour as a result of drugs misuse. The offender is required to attend for regular drug screening test and offered support to wean them away from drug use.

Community Payback

Community payback provides the opportunity for local people to have a say as to how offenders who have committed crimes should make amends for the harm they have caused. Usually this will be in unpaid work within the community, the work benefits local schools, faith groups, churches, charities and community organisations. Offenders are expected to undertake a minimum of six hours work a week and to have completed the project within 12 months. They wear high visibility jackets with 'community payback' written on them so the community can see the work being done.


There are certain specified offences were an offender has no alternative but to be charged and these decisions are made by the Crown Prosecution Service. An example of a specified offence is drink driving. The offender is prosecuted and the court process begins.

No Further Action

There is insufficient evidence or not in the public's interest to proceed to prosecution.

Taken into consideration (TIC)

An offender asks for other offences usually not detected by police to be considered when charged with a similar offence.

For example, the offender is caught in the act of burglary and during interview admits the offence and then tells the interviewing officers about ten other houses he had broken into. These burglaries had been recorded, but not solved due to lack of evidence. When the offender goes to court charged with the burglary he was caught committing, the other ten offences that he has told the police about are presented to the court. The judge or the magistrate takes this into account when sentencing. There are many reasons why this could occur; more often than not this is so the offender can be dealt with all the offences at once, victims often feel reassured when they know someone has admitted to their crime.

We will give you the opportunity once a case is finalised to see a picture of the offender, this may help people to dispel the images they often create and bring some peace of mind.


Following arrest on suspicion of a given offence, police can take the decision to release the suspect on bail under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE).

Common reasons for bailing a suspect with or without conditions, pre-charge, are:

  • there is insufficient evidence to charge and it is necessary to continue to investigate without the suspect having to be held in custody
  • there is sufficient evidence to charge but the case has been referred to the CPS for a charging decision
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