Conditional cautions – what are they and am I eligible for one?

Written 5th June 2024 by Maria Koukou

What is a conditional caution?

A conditional caution is a way to dispose of a police investigation against an individual which avoids court proceedings. In other words, if someone accepts a conditional caution and complies with the conditions attached to it, they would not need to set foot in court. However, if there is no reasonable excuse for non-compliance, criminal proceedings may be commenced and the conditional caution will no longer apply.

Who can impose a conditional caution and when?

A police officer not below the rank of Sergeant or a Prosecutor from the Crown Prosecution Service can decide whether to give an individual a conditional caution. However, these are only available to individuals aged 18 or over. Individuals under the age of 18 may receive a youth conditional caution.

A conditional caution is mainly offered at the investigation stage, however, when reviewing the case after an individual is charged with an offence, if the Prosecution decides that a conditional caution would be more appropriate then it could still be offered.

How long does a conditional caution last for?

Conditional cautions typically last for up to 16 weeks but can, exceptionally, last for a longer period that must not exceed 20 weeks.

Can a conditional caution be given for any offence?

Adult individuals are eligible for a conditional caution if they are being investigated for any summary-only or any either-way offence. If multiple offences that are being investigated are suitable for a conditional caution, they could be grouped together and dealt with using only one conditional caution.

Indictable-only offences as well as domestic violence-related offences or hate crime offences will generally not be suitable for a conditional caution, however, it could be considered in exceptional circumstances.

If an individual is being investigated for the same offence that they were previously investigated, this would indicate a pattern of offending and, therefore, a conditional caution is unlikely to be appropriate. Similarly, if a conditional caution has been given for the same or similar offence before, then a second conditional caution should not generally be given unless there are exceptional circumstances.

What requirements need to be met for a conditional caution to be given?

Section 23 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 sets out five requirements that must all be met before a conditional caution may be given. These are:

  1. the Police/Prosecution must have evidence that the individual has committed an offence;
  2. the Police/Prosecution must determine that there is sufficient evidence to charge the individual with the offence. The Police/Prosecution must also determine that a conditional caution should be given to the individual in respect of the offence;
  3. the individual must admit to the Police/Prosecution that they have committed the offence;
  4. the Police/Prosecution must explain the effect of the conditional caution and warn the individual that failure to comply with any of the conditions may result in prosecution for the offence; and
  5. the individual must sign a document containing: details of the offence, an admission that they committed the offence and consent to be given a conditional caution.

Types of conditions

The conditions attached to a conditional caution must have one or more of the following objectives:

  • Rehabilitation – conditions that help the individual change their behaviour, reduce the likelihood of re-offending or help the individual reintegrate into society. Examples are: attendance at drug or alcohol misuse programmes and gambling or debt management courses;
  • Reparation – conditions which repair the damage done by the individual either directly or indirectly. Examples are: apologising to the victim, repairing any damaged property and giving financial compensation to the victim or making payment to a local charitable fund.
  • Punishment – financial penalty.

Would a conditional caution show on my record?

Yes, a conditional caution would be recorded on the individual’s Police National Computer (PNC) record. This would happen even if a conditional caution was offered but was not complied with and court proceedings commenced.

A conditional caution would also show on a basic DBS check while it was unspent but would only show on a standard or enhanced DBS check if it was spent. A conditional caution becomes spent three months from the date of issue or when it ceases to have effect, if earlier.

How can Olliers assist me in relation to a conditional caution?

At Olliers we have significant experience and expertise in representing clients at the pre-charge investigation stage. We can communicate with the police on your behalf and a later stage prepare representations setting out why a conditional caution may be a suitable disposal for your case. We can suggest courses for you to undertake as part of the rehabilitation aspect of the conditions.

Contact our team to arrange advice and representation in relation to a criminal investigation by completing the form below, telephoning 0161 8341515 or by emailing

Maria Koukou

Maria Koukou

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