Police have issued more than 32,000 pre-charge warnings for
petty crimes, resulting in a double-digit drop in charges
before district courts.
Figures released under the Official Information Act reveal
since pre-charge warnings came into effect on September 12,
2010, they have accounted for 10% of all charges.
During that period, 322,130 charges were laid by police
nationally. Ten percent, or 32,931, were resolved using the
The warnings are used when an offence justifies an arrest,
and the offender has been taken to a police station for
A sergeant or a higher-ranked officer could decide to release
a person with a warning when the arrests met "evidential
sufficiency requirements", Assistant Commissioner operations
Nick Perry said.
The warnings were most commonly used to resolve public order
offences. Disorder and breach of liquor ban offences account
for half of all the pre-charge warnings issued.
They can only be issued to offenders aged 17 years or older
and who have committed a low-level offence - maximum penalty
of six months imprisonment or less. Methamphetamine and
family violence offences, and admitted guilt, were excluded.
Asst Comm Perry said the warnings were counted in official
police statistics. For the 2011-12 financial year, warnings
resolved 21,811 charges, and reduced new charges to the
District Court by 12%. Police also estimate the warnings
saved just under 37,000 hours of front-line officer time -
the equivalent of about 21 full-time equivalent jobs - each
year, as police spent less time preparing files for court.
Acting Southern District Commander Inspector Lane Todd said
in the district about half of all disorderly behaviour and
breach of liquor ban offences were pre-charge warned.
The district was more conservative than other districts in
its use of warnings with 10% of all charges being warnings.
The national average was 12%.
Insp Todd said pre-charge warnings were proving to be an
effective way of dealing with low-level offending, "with the
offender being taken into custody and held for a period prior
"A couple hours in a police cell can be quite a sobering
experience and that is all that is required to ensure the
Police Minister Anne Tolley said the focus of police was for
officers to be in communities preventing and dealing with
crime, and "less time doing admin in the office".