Briefing paper

The cautious approach: police cautions and the impact on youth reoffending

Police Police power Recidivism Crime Problem youth Crime reduction Victoria
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Previous research into youth diversionary practices has shown that diverting young people away from the formal court system leads to a positive impact on youth reoffending behaviour. A number of studies have examined the impact of police cautions or youth conferences compared to formal court proceedings. However, there is a paucity of studies which focus purely on the impact of police dispositions at the pre-court stage. The current study examines the characteristics that impact on a young person receiving a caution as opposed to a charge from police and the impact this has on reoffending within a twelve month follow up period. A cohort of 5,981 young people who were recorded as allegedly committing an offence between 1 April 2015 and 31 March 2016 were included in this study. Fifty-six percent of the cohort received a caution and the remaining 44% were charged by police. A logistic regression model was constructed to examine the differences between the cautioned and charged young people for demographic, offending history and incident characteristics. This model was used to develop a propensity score for each young person which was then used to match a group of cautioned young people to a group of charged young people. Consistent with findings of previous studies, young people who were cautioned were less likely to reoffend than those charged. The current study also found a longer duration between the index incident and their first reoffending incident for cautioned young people as opposed to those charged.

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