CJI publishes Follow-Up Review of Police use of Discretion including Penalty Notices

CJI Chief Inspector Jacqui Durkin has welcomed work by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to improve oversight of the use of police discretion including the use of penalty notices but identified that further work is needed in this important area.
“The follow-up review I have published today shows 10 of the 11 inspection recommendations made in CJI’s 2015 inspection report have been achieved or partially achieved.  I welcome the progress that has been made and the better quality assurance and partnership arrangements that are now place with the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland (PPS),” said Ms Durkin.
“The formation of a Quality Assurance Panel to randomly sample and review cases where discretion has been applied, together with monitoring and governance by senior police officers, to ensure any issues identified are dealt with and learning applied across all Police Districts is a welcome development,” said the Chief Inspector.
However Inspectors identified that the Quality Assurance Panel did not review cases where fixed penalty notices were issued or instances where police discretion could have been applied and a Penalty Notice for Disorder or Community Resolution Notice issued, instead of a file being sent to the PPS for prosecution. 
“We believe the Police need to monitor and have effective arrangements in place to identify where discretion could have been applied but wasn’t. These are areas the PSNI and PPS should consider including within the work of the Quality Assurance Panel as decisions made by the PPS can clearly result in very different outcomes for offenders and once a PPS file is submitted it can’t be returned for police reconsideration,” she said.
“We have also identified that further work needs to be undertaken to obtain better management information on all types of penalty notices through increased collection, analysis and reporting of data on Section 75 categories.
“The use of discretion and different types of penalty notices to deal with minor offences without the need for court proceedings is an important part of the criminal justice system.  The use of discretion by police officers isn’t easy to do but it is vital they get it right.  Maintaining public confidence and support from local communities is at the heart of the PSNI’s ability to use police discretion and penalty notices to effectively deal with low level offences,” said Ms Durkin
“This will become more challenging as new fixed penalty notice offences are introduced and enforcement of the current COVID-19 public health regulations continues.   The use of discretion including penalty notices is an important area and one which I expect to return to in the future,” said the Chief Inspector.