Police are letting paedophiles and sex offenders escape without a criminal record - meaning they could still work with children.
That’s the finding of a Yorkshire Regional Newspapers investigation which has revealed Community Resolution Disposals (CRD), designed to punish minor, first time offenders, have been handed out to people who had admitted possessing child porn or committing a sexual assault.
Angry campaigners fear that it could allow potentially dangerous sex offenders to “slip under the net” - and that North Yorkshire Police are letting serious offenders “off the hook”
“It’s absolutely appalling - If somebody is committing a crime against a child or a sexual crime it should be a criminal offence, there’s no two ways about it,” said Hope’s Pauline Carruthers, who helps sex abuse victims in the region.
“What’s to stop one of them volunteering to work here, or to work with children?”
That fear is based on the fact CRDs wouldn’t show up on a standard background check, although they may possibly appear on an enhanced check.
And as the out-of-court disposals are often used to stop first-time offenders receiving a career-hampering criminal record, it could mean that an offence that would typically bring the culprit before a court never ends up on file.
And figures obtained under the Freedom of Information act show that across North Yorkshire, thousands of people have been handed one rather than face a judge.
These include eight sexual assaults, 33 hate crimes, and three people found to be either making indecent photos or possessing child pornography.
In total, 2,063 CRDs were handed out by the police between 2009 and 2014.
Previously an independent crime panel was set up by crime commissioner Julia Mulligan after concerns the force were handing them out too easily. But Mrs Carruther’s feels that there is a simpler way of ensuring those who have committed serious crimes don’t just escape with a “slap on the wrist”.
“Anybody who commits a sexual offence should get a criminal record,” she added.
“That should be the law.”
The CRDs are a level below a caution, which would land the culprit with a criminal record, and were launched with the intention of keeping less serious offences out of the “overloaded” criminal system.
Leanne McConnell, Head of Criminal Justice at North Yorkshire Police, said: “When considering what action the force will take in relation to an offence, each case will be considered on its own merits and unique set of circumstances.
“These include considerations such as the gravity and nature of the offence, the history of the offender and the victims’ wishes.
“The Community Resolution Disposal is one of a number of options available to the police when considering disposal outcomes and focuses on repairing the harm caused by the offender to the victim and the wider community.
“A Community Resolution Disposal will normally only take place with the written consent of the victim who will sign a restorative agreement.
“North Yorkshire Police follow national guidance in relation to this procedure and we have received positive feedback from a number of victims and members of the public in relation to this outcome.”