At PFD’s ‘No Place for Hate’ conference, some of you expressed your interest in more guidance around the purpose and responsibility of Out of Court Disposal (OoCD) Scrutiny Panels in Dorset.
We’ve compiled a number of frequently asked questions. If you have any further questions, please let us know in the comments and we will continue to extend this post.
What is Out of Court Disposal (OoCD)?
OoCD is used in cases of less serious, and often first-time, offenders as an alternative to going to court. It can only be used in limited circumstances and when the suspect takes responsibility for the alleged offence.
What are the methods for dealing with suspects who are seen by OoCD?
Methods for dealing with suspects in this way include restorative justice, community resolutions, conditional cautions, cannabis warnings, penalty notices and fines, together with appropriate interventions.
Why are OoCD Scrutiny Panels needed?
OoCDs are administered without the involvement of the courts and so the public expects that the police, who in such cases act as ‘investigators, prosecutors, judge and jury’, have some checks and balances in exercising these powers.
For this reason, the Police and Crime Commissioner has adopted an OoCD Scrutiny Panel so Dorset residents can be assured that the police are making appropriate and proportionate use of this tool.
The Out of Court Disposal Scrutiny Panel oversees how Dorset Police and the Youth Offending Service issue out of court disposals and ensures that the use of such disposals is appropriate, proportionate and consistent with national and local policy and considers the victims’ wishes where appropriate.
What does the OoCD Scrutiny Panel do?
The Scrutiny Panel reviews a random selection of cases – with the panel determining whether each instance was appropriate and consistent with Dorset Police policies, the Crown Prosecution Service Code for Crown Prosecutors and the Victim Code. Feedback and recommendations are passed on to the Force for action and consideration.
How often does the panel meet and what do they discuss?
In 2019, the panel met on four occasions on 6 March, 19 June, 4 September and 18 December 2019 to review and consider 65 cases in total.
The cases discussed were on the following broad themes:
- Burglary, theft and shoplifting cases
- Weapon offences, violence against the person, knife crime and violence linked to weapon possession
- Females and Black, Asian, Minority & Ethnic individuals.
The scrutiny panel has a standing agenda which covers the following areas:
- Introductions, conflicts of interest and confidentiality
- Minutes from previous meetings (approved between meetings to save time at main meeting)
- Review of actions from previous meeting/s and updates
- Review of effectiveness (from Dorset Police, if any previous recipients of previous Out of Court Disposals have re-offended)
- Performance update
- Cases for discussion (previously 20 cases, reduced to 15)
- Any other business (including selection of theme for the next meeting).
Who are the members of the OoCD Scrutiny Panel?
The Scrutiny Panel comprises members of the public and experts from other agencies. The panel has a core of some 15 regular attendees at panel meetings.
These include five independent members, representatives from Dorset Bench including Dorset Youth Panel, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service, the Crown Prosecution Service, Probation Services, local Youth Offending Services who regularly attend the scheduled meetings which are held four times a year.
The panel is supported by members of Dorset Police including the Adult Out of Court Disposals Manager, Youth Out of Court Disposals Manager and a representative from Restorative Justice.
The panel also invites a representative from a different charity relevant to the theme of cases being considered; these include those with specialist knowledge in areas such as victim support, domestic violence, stalking, drugs and alcohol and sexual offences.
If you want to find out more about the independent panel members, visit page 1 of the OoCD Scrutiny Panel annual report here.
What about confidentiality?
At the start of each meeting, all those in attendance declare any conflicts of interest. All members have signed a confidentiality agreement which incorporates the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requirements.
Confidential meeting papers (e.g. case summaries and performance data) are sent securely to panel members and collected after each meeting for safe disposal.
Where can I find out more about the activities of the OoCD Scrutiny Panel?
To ensure transparency and accountability, a summary of each panel meeting is published together with a full annual report on the Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner’s website – this is also open to members of the public to view.