Senior judge criticises increase in use of penalty notices

Lord Justice Leveson, the senior presiding judge in England and Wales, has expressed concerns about the high numbers of penalty notices and other out of court disposals of justice.


Speaking at the Liverpool John Moores University’s Roscoe Foundation for Citizenship, in November, Leveson LJ questioned whether the issue of 450,000 penalty notices for disorder and cautions in 2009 was “truly appropriate”.

When issuing these penalties, the police were acting as prosecutor and judge, he said, and while these disposals were not convictions, they “risk ‘criminalising’ people who on a one off occasion do something out of character and who feel that the quickest thing to do is to accept the penalty or caution ... even if further analysis might have revealed no offence.”

Acknowledging the disruption that shoplifters and noisy neighbours can create, he said, “it is obviously a matter of proportion and, in relation to out of court disposals, I make my view clear that we have got the proportion wrong.”

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