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Potential Outcomes

There are a number of potential outcomes of the police investigation, explained briefly below. You may find it helpful to speak to a solicitor for legal advice, but speaking to Safer Lives about what these outcomes mean in reality will also help you to understand them better, including the likely impact of them upon you and your loved ones. Researching outcomes yourself is likely to lead to higher levels of anxiety from misunderstanding legal processes and the possible outcomes.

  • No Further Action  If the Police do not find evidence, or the Crown Prosecution Service believes there is not enough evidence, or it is believed a prosecution or caution is not in the public interest, no further action will normally be the outcome and devices will normally be returned to you.


  • Community Resolution. These are very rare, but are being offered in some Police areas where no evidence is found on devices despite suspects making admissions to some transgressional behaviours.​ Completion of some offending focussed work, such as the Safer Lives Programme is commonly a part of the resolution. These outcomes should not appear on criminal records or standard DBS checks, and no sex offender registration is possible.

  • Caution. Often called a 'Simple Caution' by the Police to differentiate it from the 'Conditional Caution' which is explained below. With a caution you would accept responsibility for transgressing the law but you would not be taken to Court. There would be no conditions placed on you, but you would be subject to Notification Requirements (ie the Sex Offender Registration) for two years. It is likely that 'simple cautions' will be phased out in 2023/4.

  • Conditional Caution. For some 'lower level' offences, where you take responsibility for the illegal behaviour, the Police and Crown Prosecution Service may feel that the public interest is better served by issuing a Conditional Caution. This would mean you don't have to go to Court. This may have a condition of attending education sessions or other work relevant to your behaviour, including the Safer Lives Programme. You would be added to the sex offender register for a period of two years, but there would usually be no Sexual Harm Prevention Order unless the Police applied to the Court for one..

If your case is prosecuted at court and you are convicted, the court will normally be helped to decide upon a sentence by a Pre-sentence Report. These are written by Probation Officers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and by Community Justice Social Workers in Scotland. Safer Lives practitioners have written thousands of these in the past. After reading the report, the Court will normally consider three different options, briefly explained below.

  • Community Order (called a Community Payback Order in Scotland).  A Community Order can last up to three years. This involves supervision by the Probation Service (or Community Justice Social Workers in Scotland) and requirements such as Unpaid Work, Rehabilitation Days (appointments) with a Probation Officer, group work programmes, electronically monitored curfews. A Community Order comes with five years on the sex offender register.

  • Suspended Sentence. The Court can pass a custodial (prison) sentence, but decide to suspend this for a period of time, up to two years. This means you only go to prison if you reoffend or don't complete requirements with the Probation Service. A prison sentence can only be suspended if the term of imprisonment is two years or under. A Suspended Sentence carries ten years of sex offender registration, or seven years if the period of suspended imprisonment is six months or less. A Suspended Sentence Order of unto 24 months will also normally be passed. This acts very much like a Community Order, allowing for Probation supervision and other Probation led requirements, as above.

  • Immediate Custody (Prison). Some offences are judged to be so serious that immediate imprisonment is seen as the only option. People convicted of sexual offences are offered to reside on a vulnerable prisoner (VP) wing, separating them from the general prison population. Most sentences involve serving half of the sentence in prison and then a minimum of twelve months under Probation licence and supervision. Impriosnemnt of less than 32 months comes with ten years of sex offender registartion upon release, or seven years if the period of suspended imprisonment is six months or less. Lifelong registration is imposed if imprisonment is 32 months or more. 

  • For any conviction through the Courts, you should also expect to receive a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) which will come with conditions of behaviour that are relevant to the offences, such as not deleting internet history, not using private browsing and making devices available for inspection. For comunications offences you should expect some restrictions on contact with children outside of your family.​

Safer Lives can help you to better understand these possible outcomes, including which might be most relevant to you. We have written thousands of reports for the courts advising on sentences, and we also have years of experience of working in prisons with sex offender populations. Where immediate custody (prison) is a realistic possibility, we can prepare you for what this would involve and how you would manage it. But as most of our clients do not go to custody, perhaps by showing the courts that they are willing to rehabilitate, we are also able to explain and prepare you for the range of sentences that the courts have as an option, should your case be prosecuted.

To book a consultation or to have a short chat about your situation, call on 0800 0435987, WhatsApp or text on 0747 668 3012 or email on

Police and Court Outcomes: Resources
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