THE issuing of adult cautions is becoming more prevalent in recent times, something gardaí have attributed to the current economic climate.
At a meeting of the county’s Joint Policing Committee Superintendent Derek Smart, of Ennis Garda District, outlined to the committee that the number of theft and theft-related offences had increased by three instances, bringing the total to 858.
Noting in the breakdown of these figures that thefts from shops accounted for 230 of these crimes, Councillor John Crowe asked the Superintendent to clarify if these would have resulted in successful prosecutions.
Superintendent Smart said, “The vast majority of them would end up in convictions. Most shops have good CCTVs, and we would also make use of the adult caution in the case of a first time offence, which keeps the matter out of the courts. We are seeing this being used a lot more in the current economic times”.
After the meeting, Superintendent Smart told The Clare Champion, “It would have just been a general thing I would have noticed; there a lot more middle aged people coming into us for adult cautions. There are sad cases out there where genuinely this is a last throw of the dice for people”.
As the district officer for the Ennis area, which encompasses the former district of Killaloe and also Shannon, Superintendent Smart is the person who has to sign off on adult caution certificates.
He explained, “For an adult caution you need to have a clean record. You have to be over 18 years of age and it applies to certain criminal matters, such as theft, common assault and criminal damage. They are limited acts where it is used. The main thing we are noticing with the thefts is where people would be shop lifting. We have seen mature adults, people who are in their 40s who would maybe have hit difficult times. The whole idea of the system is they don’t have to go to court because they are entitled to the benefit of the adult caution, so it is almost like everyone is entitled to make one mistake”.
He said the matter is not recorded as a conviction and no one is entitled to know about it.
“The only way it can come back up in court again is, if within two years of the date of the offence, they are in court for a similar offence. So if I give someone an adult caution for shop-lifting but within the next two years they are caught shop-lifting again, I am entitled to tell the judge that on whatever date I gave that person an adult caution. The adult caution has to be given by a district officer or superintendent so it has to come to me to certify if it can be dealt with as an offence covered by an adult caution,” he said.
The procedure is only open to someone who has committed this particular crime for the first time and they are given the option of having the matter dealt with by way of adult caution.
“There is a form they complete, where they accept they committed the offence and they accept to being dealt with as an adult caution. I interview them formally about it and certify it,” he said.
Superintendent Smart said if there is something more than just simple theft, for example if it was obvious looting, then the adult caution would not be applied.
“It’s about giving people who have made a genuine mistake a chance. It’s all dealt with on a case by case basis. Public intoxication and engaging in threatening or abusive behaviour under the public order act are also covered. Road traffic or misuse of drugs acts are not part of it,” he concluded.