Regina v Commissioner of Metropolitan Police ex parte Thompson: Admn 18 Dec 1996

When considering an application for judicial review, where a defendant had been cautioned by the police, it was necessary to recognise that the caution procedure did have legal consequences. Though ‘There is no statutory basis for the formal caution. As is well known, the phrase ‘formal caution’ in this context is used to describe a discretionary procedure adopted by the police.’
Schliemann LJ: ‘A formal caution is not something to be regarded lightly. Records are kept of the administering of cautions . . . Such a caution, while carrying no immediately disagreeable consequence for the recipient, has potential adverse consequences for him should he be accused of offending on a future occasion. He is more likely then to be prosecuted for that offence and he will not be able to claim a good character before the trial court. If convicted, the existence of a prior formal caution may affect his sentence. Formal cautions are usually cited after any conviction of a juvenile. In practice they are rarely cited in the cases of adult offenders but may be referred to if they are relevant to the crime under consideration’. And
‘So far as the jurisdiction of this court is concerned, it is common ground that judicial review is available as a remedy in respect of a caution; that this court will not invariably interfere, even in the case of a clear breach of the guidelines relating to the administration of cautions, as the availability of a remedy is a matter for the discretion of the court; that police officers responsible for applying the Home Office Circular which sets out the guidelines ‘must enjoy a wide margin of appreciation as to the nature of the case and whether the preconditions for a caution are satisfied;’ and that it will be a rare case where a person who has been cautioned will succeed in showing that the decision was fatally flawed by a clear breach of the Guidelines. That much is clear from a decision of this court, R. v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, Ex parte P. (1995) 160 J.P. 367′.


Schiemann LJ, Butterfield J


[1996] EWHC Admin 379, [1997] 1 WLR 1519




CitedRegina v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, Ex parte P QBD 1995
A court may set aside a police caution where the defendant had not made a clear admission of guilt. Simon Brown LJ: ‘It follows, in my judgment, that there was here no clear and reliable admission of guilt at any stage. I am invited to look at the . .

Cited by:

CitedWyman, Regina (on the Application of) v The Chief Constable of Hampshire Constaulary Admn 24-Jul-2006
The claimant challenged a formal caution administered against him for an alleged sexual assault. He denied that he had made any clear admission of the offence.
Held: The requirement under the procedure was for a clear admission of guilt, but . .
CitedStratton, Regina (on The Application of) v Thames Valley Police Admn 7-Jun-2013
The claimant requested the court to set aside a caution accepted by her, when she said that she had not understood the serious consequences and had not admitted the offence.
Held: It was for each Chief Constable to draft his own policy, but . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Criminal Practice, Judicial Review

Updated: 25 May 2022; Ref: scu.136927