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Not just a slap on the wrist: a thematic analysis of suspects’ decision-making in accepting and subsequently challenging a simple caution for adult offenders

Rutter, S C (2018) Not just a slap on the wrist: a thematic analysis of suspects’ decision-making in accepting and subsequently challenging a simple caution for adult offenders. Other thesis, University of Essex.

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Abstract

The simple caution is a formal warning given by the police to people aged 18 and over. It is an out-of-court disposal that is intended to be a simple and effective response to low-level, mainly first-time, offending. In recent years the use of the simple caution has been the focus of media criticism and Government review. Most often because of allegations that it is too often used as a ‘soft option’ for more serious and repeat offenders. In antithesis, this study explored the psychological factors that led to the acceptance of a simple caution in a group of adults who later sought legal redress on grounds that the caution had been unfairly administered, and for whom the consequences of accepting a caution were often significant. The researcher adopted a constructionist position and employed a qualitative approach to explore this previously un-researched area. Thirteen adults, who had successfully challenged or were in the process of challenging a simple caution, were recruited to the study and were interviewed. Using an inductive thematic analysis, four themes were identified, each with sub-themes: Presumed innocent related to constructions of criminality and participants’ perceptions of themselves as non-criminal; Responses to arrest focused on the emotional response to police detention; Suspect vulnerability considered how naivety and the actions of the police led to the acceptance of a caution; and, The not so simple caution examined the consequences of accepting a caution and the reasons for challenge. The findings illustrate that innocence and naivety, and the need to escape, were primary motivating factors for accepting a caution, and that participants were often unaware of the consequences of accepting this disposal until after they had left the police station. The thesis concludes with some reflections on the process and consideration of how the results might inform future practice.

Item Type: Thesis (Other)
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Health > Health and Social Care, School of
Depositing User: Susan Rutter
Date Deposited: 19 Dec 2018 14:32
Last Modified: 19 Dec 2018 14:32
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/23661

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