Belfast Telegraph

Police powers resolve 4,000 cases

New police powers to deal with minor offences without resorting to the courts have already resolved 4,000 cases.

The 4,003 "discretionary disposals" completed in the last nine months well exceeds the 3,000 target the PSNI had set for the timeframe.

The powers were introduced in part to ensure officers spent less time on paperwork - each disposal saves an estimated three and half hours - and other figures in the police's performance report for the last three quarters suggest they are having an impact.

Officers are now spending on average two more hours on patrol during a ten-hour shift than they did two years ago.

While the disposals do not require the customary file to be prepared for the Public Prosecution Service, prosecutors are engaged through phone contact on proposed resolutions.

Another feature of the method is victim input, with those affected by the crime consulted on how best to deal with the issue. That could range from a young person accused of criminal damage being made to repair it to the issuing of a caution.

Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton explained the thinking behind the powers.

"Discretion is a process by which an officer uses their professional judgement to resolve minor crime in a proportionate manner whilst maintaining accountability," he said. "It delivers a streamlined and effective outcome which can increase public confidence in policing and the wider criminal justice system."

Mr Hamilton said a survey of victims who had been involved in discretionary disposals produced a satisfaction rating of almost 96%.

He stressed that while a discretion is not a criminal conviction, and will not result in a criminal record, details of the incident will be held on police records, which will be consulted by officers in the event of a further offence.

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