A CONTROVERSIAL police policy that lets criminals go unpunished has been used more than 10,000 times in the last six years.
“Effective resolution” was introduced in 2008 to deal with low-level crimes when both the victim and offender agree to its use, with the perpetrator recorded as “responsible for an offence” and warned over future conduct.
Advertiser reporter Edward Gent and Chief Superintendent Gavin Stephens
But figures obtained by the Advertiser through a Freedom of Information request show the power is being used for crimes such as arson, drug trafficking, possessing weapons, sexual offences and serious assaults.
Jerry Strzebrakowski, who runs Tillingbourne Trout Farm in Abinger, has taken advantage of the policy several times after youngsters have stolen fish from his site.
He said: “As long as they get a slap on the wrist I don’t have a problem with it. You don’t want to fill up the courts unnecessarily. But personally, I don’t think it is appropriate that serious offences should be dealt with that way. But are they just dishing these out to clear their desks? It sounds very much like it.”
The Advertiser first became aware of the issue when it was used to resolve an attack in an Ashtead pub last year that left a 40-year-old man unconscious and bleeding.
Lawyer Howard Jones, who complained to Surrey Police about the case, said: “My concern is that they have changed the culture of officers at Surrey Police, so even if they know something is a case they really should be dealing with properly by taking someone to court, now they are thinking they can deal with it through effective resolution.
“They are demotivating the people who pride themselves on taking proper criminals to court for proper crimes. They are watering down that instinct.”
But Chief Superintendent Gavin Stephens said many of the offences are not as shocking as they first seemed, with firearms offences including the use of toy and BB guns and many of the sexual offences down to experimentation by teenagers.
“These are fine and difficult judgements based on the views of the victim,” he said. “This is what the victim is asking us to do. Neither I or any of the officers applying these judgements have got any desire for dangerous people to be walking the streets.”
The initial six-month pilot in 2008 saved about 1,500 police hours but Mr Stephens was keen to explain effectively resolved crimes do not benefit the force as they do not count towards crime detection figures with the Home Office.
Mr Stephens has initiated a review into how the power is used in relation to violent crime.
Debate rages on Surrey Police’s use of effective resolution