Out-of-court disposals, such as cautions and fixed penalty notices, are a form of criminal justice system (CJS) intervention that has grown in popularity in recent years. Out-of-court disposals are designed to deal quickly with minor offences without the need for court proceedings or conviction. The use of out-of-court disposals is seen as a way of reducing the demand on the CJS while still delivering a just outcome and providing an effective response to offending behaviour. Therefore, it is important to understand the effectiveness of out-of court disposals on reoffending behaviour.
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A range of research studies have examined whether out-of court disposals reduce reoffending rates compared with traditional court sentences. A study conducted by Dyer et al (2016) found that offenders who received an out-of court disposal were less likely to be reconvicted than those who received custodial sentences or fines imposed by the courts. Similarly, another study conducted by Tilley et al (2014) found that there was no significant difference between those receiving out‐of‐court disposal sanctions and those receiving suspended prison sentences in terms of their likelihood of reoffending within 12 months following sentencing. Furthermore, a meta analysis conducted by Swift & Johnson (2011) concluded that there was no evidence to suggest that use of community sentences rather than custodial sentence reduced recidivism rates significantly when measured over two year follow up period after release from prison or completion of sentence. These findings suggest that out–of–court disposals may not be as effective at reducing reoffending behaviour as other measures such as probation orders or community service orders issued through courts proceedings which require regular contact between offender and Probation Service staff during supervision period which can help deter criminal behaviours through provision access support services relating to accommodation, education/training and employment opportunities etc..
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