Adult Cautioning Scheme


In February 2006 a new scheme came into effect in Ireland as an alternative to prosecuting adults (that is, those over 18 years of age) for certain criminal offences. The scheme is called the Adult Cautioning Scheme and may be available as an alternative to prosecution where there is evidence that the person has committed the offence and where the prosecution of such an offence is not in the public interest. Adult cautions are not disclosed in Garda vetting reports and police certificates.

There are a number of specific criminal offences to which this Scheme can be applied; these offences are set out below. It is important to note that the Scheme can only be considered for these offences.

Who makes the decision to caution?

If you are suspected of committing one of the criminal offences covered by the Scheme, the decision to administer a caution (rather than prosecuting you) is made by the local Garda Superintendent (or a Garda Inspector who is acting as the local Superintendent). In deciding whether or not to issue a caution, the Gardaí must consider:

  • Your alleged behaviour
  • The surrounding circumstances
  • Evidence of your guilt
  • Your understanding of what a caution is and its significance
  • The public interest
  • The views of the victim

The Garda Superintendent will inform you that they are considering not prosecuting you if you are prepared to accept a caution in respect of the matter. They will also issue you with a warning that any future behaviour of such a criminal kind will likely result in a prosecution. You must also accept responsibility for your behaviour before you are considered for cautioning.

What is the public interest?

The decision to administer a caution instead of prosecution is a serious decision and the Garda Superintendent must be satisfied that the offence is appropriate for a caution. This does not only mean that the offence is included in the Schedule of Offences which are part of the Scheme. While this is necessary, it is also necessary to look at the particular circumstances in which the offence has been committed. If the public interest doesn't require a prosecution in those circumstances, then you may be cautioned.

Another matter to be considered when looking at the public interest is the offender. It would seem appropriate, for example, that someone of mature age without any previous convictions would be dealt with effectively by way of caution and would be deterred from similar behaviour in the future. It may not, however, be appropriate to consider a habitual criminal for inclusion in the Scheme.

Where the offence is simple possession of cannabis or cannabis resin contrary to Section 3 of Misuse of Drugs Act 1977, consideration must also be given to the type, quantity and value of the drug and whether in all the circumstances the offence disclosed amounts to simple possession.

How are the views of the victim considered?

Before any decision is made to administer a caution, the views of any victim must, if possible, be sought by the Gardaí. If the victim is of the view that a caution should not be given, any reasons offered by the victim must be carefully considered by the Garda Superintendent before the decision is made. It is possible, however, for a caution to be administered by the Superintendent even if the victim is opposed to it. In such cases, the Gardaí may seek advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions before making a decision to caution or not.

If you offer compensation to the victim it may support any decision to administer a caution. The decision to caution however, does not rest on the issue of compensation alone. That is to say, the Gardaí do not become involved in recommending compensation by the offender to the victim.

The cautioning procedure

A Garda Superintendent or a Garda Inspector who is acting as the Superintendent administers the Adult Caution. The caution takes place in a Garda station. You are required to acknowledge in writing that you agree to accept the caution and that you do not object to the fact that the caution will be recorded and will be made known to a court in the event of any subsequent conviction for any criminal offence.

Can an offender receive a second Adult Caution?

The idea of the caution is that it should only be applied once to an offender, but it may (only in the most exceptional circumstances) be applied to someone who has previously been cautioned. Examples of such exceptional circumstances include:

  • Where the subsequent offence is a very minor one
  • Where there has been a long gap in time since the first caution was given and the Superintendent believes that a second caution after such a time lapse would benefit the person

If a Superintendent decides to give a second or subsequent caution to any person, then the Gardaí must first obtain the permission of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

How is the decision made to administer a caution?

When a Garda has detected an offence which is included in the list of offences, the Garda fills out an Adult Caution Referral Form, if he/she believes the offender may be suitable for an Adult Caution. The offender is then told by the member in charge of the Garda station in ordinary language what the Adult Cautioning Scheme is. If the offender understands the procedure and agrees to being considered for the Scheme, then the offender is asked by the Garda to sign Part E of the Referral Form. This signature is witnessed by the Gardaí.

The member in charge of the Garda Station forwards the Referral Form to the Superintendent with his/her views and recommendations. The Superintendent then does one of three things:

  • Decides to administer an Adult Caution
  • Decides to refuse an Adult Caution
  • Decides to refer the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions for direction

When is the caution administered?

If it is decided to administer a caution, the member in charge of the Garda station arranges a suitable time and venue for the administering of the caution by the Superintendent. Once the caution is administered, a copy of the completed Adult Caution Referral Form is given to the offender.

The entire procedure from the detection of the crime to the completion of the administering of the caution is carried out as soon as is possible, that is, in days rather than months.

Schedule of offences

The list of offences which are eligible for the Adult Cautioning Scheme are as follows:

Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994

Section 4: Intoxication (being drunk) in a public place

Section 5: Disorderly conduct in a public place

Section 6: Threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour in a public place

Section 8: Failure to comply with a direction (order) of a Garda

Section 9: Wilful obstruction (deliberate obstruction)

Section 11: Entering a building etc. with intent to commit an offence

Section 13: Trespass on a building etc. in a manner likely to cause fear (only for offences committed from 14 December 2020)

Section 21: Failure to comply with crowd control restrictions (only for offences committed from 14 December 2020)

Section 22: Surrender and seizure of alcohol.

Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001

Section 4: Theft - where the value of the property doesn't exceed €1000

Section 8: Making off without payment (where the value of the payment is less than €1,000)

Section 17: Handling stolen property (where the value of the property concerned is less than €1,000)

Section 18: Possession of stolen property (where the value of the property concerned is less than €1,000)

Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003

Section 6: Offences by a drunken person

Section 8: Disorderly conduct

Non Fatal Offences Against The Persons Act 1997

Section 2: Assault - minor assaults (Assaults on members of the Gardaí are forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions for consideration)

Criminal Damage Act 1991

Section 2: Damaging property where the value of the property damaged is less than €1,000

Section 3: Threat to damage property

Misuse of Drugs Act 1977

Section 3: Possession of cannabis or cannabis resin (only for offences committed from 14 December 2020)

Casual Trading Act 1995

Section 3: Casual trading without or in breach of licence (only for offences committed from 14 December 2020)

Intoxicating Liquor Act 1927

Section 17: Persons on licensed premises during prohibited hours

Licensing Act 1872

Section 12: Public Drunkenness

Dublin Police Act 1842

Section 14(12): Nuisances in Public thoroughfares (applies to Dublin Metropolitan (Court) District Only)

Summary Jurisdiction (Ireland) Amendment Act 1871

Section 8: Offensive or riotous conduct in a theatre or other place of public amusement (applies to Dublin Metropolitan (Court) District only)

Page edited: 18 December 2020