Formal cautions

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A formal caution is a formal warning. It is more serious than a warning, otherwise known as an informal caution. 

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How do Police give you a formal caution?

Before giving you a formal caution, the officer must explain to you:

  • the nature of the offence and how they think it has occurred;
  • that you are allowed to have a lawyer if you want; and
  • that you are allowed to have the offence dealt with by a court instead if you want.

Police will give a formal caution at the police station. The meeting at the police station will be with yourself, the police officer and your parent or guardian.

During the meeting the police officer must explain what a formal caution is and that a formal caution is put on your official record. When you receive a formal caution you will get it in writing and you have to sign it to acknowledge you understand. If you receive a formal warning the Police officer can give a victim of your actions your identity if they ask for it.  

Formal Undertakings

As part of the formal caution, the police may also require you to promise to do something. This is called a formal undertaking. They might require you to do one of the following:

  • pay compensation to the victim of the offence;
  • carry out up to 75 hours of community service work;
  • apologise to the victim (often in writing);
  • anything else that is appropriate in the circumstances

Your parents or guardian can get involved in the discussions about any undertakings the police propose before you agree to anything. .The undertaking must be signed by you, a representative of the Commissioner of Police, and if possible your parents or guardians.

What happens after I receive a formal caution?

If you do everything that the Police require, including any formal undertakings, then the police cannot take any other action against you for that offence.

Do formal cautions affect my criminal record?

The police will keep an official record of a formal caution. If you do end up going to court for an offence under the Youth Justice Act, a formal caution can be used as evidence of the offence you were cautioned for.

However, after you turn 18 a formal caution will not be able to be brought up as evidence.

If you are under 25 and have a question about cautions, please contact us here.

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