Police in the north west have used a system designed to speed up the justice process, to clear almost 4000 offences in just over two years.
Launched in the PSNI’s G District - an area that covers Derry, Strabane, Limavady and Magherafelt - in July 2010, police Discretionary Disposals or “Discretion” is designed to keep people - especially young people - out of the criminal justice system.
The system affords PSNI officers discretionary powers to deal with an offence on the spot, rather than to proceed with prosecution or caution.
Now, figures obtained by through a Freedom of Information request by online investigative journalism site thedetail.tv, and shared with the Derry Journal, reveal that a total of 3929 wide ranging offences have been dealt with through Discretion in G District - including assaults, indecent behaviour, threats to kill, drug offences and arson.
Thedetail’s figures also show discretionary disposals have been used 69 times in G District since July 2010 for offences committed by children aged between 10 and 12 - including shoplifting, aggravated assault criminal damage, and arson.
In one instance last year discretionary disposals were used after a 12 year old was stopped for using a motor vehicle without insurance driving.
Driving offences make up the majority of discretionary disposal in the north west.
Topping the list is 611 cases of using a mobile phone whilst driving while there were 400 cases of driving without due care and attention and 305 cases of driving with excess speed.
The figures further reveal 289 cases of criminal damage. 220 of shoplifting, 153 of disorderly behaviour and 141 of common assault.
Other notable offences dealt with via Discretionary Disposal include possession of a class B drug (36), assault on police (12), possessing an offensive weapon in public (5) and threats to kill (3).
PSNI Chief Inspector Michael Kirby said the “idea of discretion was that we could record a crime as we’re required to do.”
“However, instead of the officer having the ability to say ‘don’t do that again’ and nothing else is recorded , with discretion everything that happens with the offender is documented. In effect it’s a way of the officer to record low level crimes in a more formal way, without having to go through the courts,” he said.
“I think the vast majority of people would say police officers are paid a good wage, they’re given a lot of responsibility and accountability and subject to controls, get on and do it. ”
Across the north discretionary disposals have been used 32,000 times since being launched in 2010.
You can read thedetail’s story in full online at thedetail.tv