Agreement of victims is crucial to success of scheme
Discretion is not something new to policing; it was something police officers did day and daily - a skill which required common sense and professional judgment.
Discretion is one of the lowest levels by which a case may be resolved.
Similar to cautions, discretion is most suited for low level/impact offences and non-persistent offenders.
The scheme is designed to provide a comparatively speedy, proportionate and visible justice outcome and that has a more restorative approach.
The offender must admit their guilt and consent to completing an agreement that is proportionate to the crime which could include, but is not limited to, an apology, the repair of damage or payment for a stolen item.
A discretionary disposal is not a criminal conviction; however police do retain a record of all disposals should the offender commit a further offence. PSNI have also established a quality assurance process, led by the Public Prosecution Service, who randomly dip-sample discretionary disposals on a monthly basis.
The scheme has highlighted through surveys that because victims are engaged in the process that have a very high level of satisfaction with 95% or more victims stating they were satisfied with the way in which their crime was dealt with through discretion.
Discretionary disposals provide a comparatively speedy, proportionate and visible justice outcome which achieve high levels of victim satisfaction and allow a much more tailored response than other disposals.
However, we recognise the need to use this wisely in order to retain (public) confidence.
- Michael Kirby is a Chief Inspector with the PSNI