A caution relates to several matters in different parts of the law. For example:

  • Notice given to the Land Registry by any person with an interest in particular land to ensure that no action is taken in respect of the land without the person’s knowledge.
  • Warning, given by a Police Officer, to a person suspected guilty of a crime when the person is arrested.
  • Warning, given by a Police Officer, when a supsect is released without prosecution, and that if there are any further offences committed by the suspect, then the first possible offence may be taken into account.

When a police caution must be given

Individuals suspected of being involved in an offence must be cautioned before any questions are put them about the offence in question.
Individuals not suspected of committing an offence may be spoken to (or questioned) without being cautioned. However, if after questioning, a response (or other development) leads to them being a potential suspect, then they must also be cautioned.
Cautioning an individual is crucial to the judicial process as this then allows any of the responses given to be used as evidence at court.
It may also be used as evidence in court in cases where the suspect remains silent when cautioned (failure or refusal to answer questions).

Caution following an Arrest
When an individual is arrested on suspicion of committing an offence, they must be informed as soon as possible that they are under arrest and the grounds for their arrest. An arrested person should understand why they have been arrested, for example they should be told what the suspected offence is, and when and where it was committed

Following their arrest, the individual will be cautioned immediately as from that point any responses given can be used as evidence in court.
The wording of the Police caution differs depending on where the offence was committed.

Police caution wording in England and Wales
Police caution wording in Scotland
Police caution wording in Northern Ireland

Caution before Interview

Where there has been a period of time between an individuals arrest and the start of an interview, the caution should be repeated in full before questioning starts.
Likewise, if there is a short break in the interview for any reason, the individual will be reminded that they are under caution before the interview recommences.