Police in the U.K. have developed a novel approach to punishing criminals. Basically, their method is this: Don’t punish them at all.
That’s how it seemed, anyway, to Hayley Clayton, a 32-year-old mom from Moulton Seas End in England’s eastern county of Lincolnshire. Clayton, who works in a local factory and has a 2-year-old daughter, was enjoying an evening out with her husband on Aug. 3 when, as they waited to get into a Spalding night spot, an unidentified woman punched her in the head.
The random, unprovoked attack knocked Clayton unconscious and sent her to a hospital where she needed 10 stitches for a gash over her right eye.
A few weeks later, police contacted Clayton to tell her they finally had a suspect in custody, who has been identified only as a migrant from Lithuania.
“She told the police in an interview that she did it for no reason and knew it was wrong,” Clayton said.
And then came the surprise. Rather than throw the book at her attacker, the cops tried to buy Clayton off to avoid filling out paperwork. They told Clayton that they could slap the perp with a “caution” and let her go. Or they could make her pay Clayton £100 (about $160) and let her walk with a clean record.
But she couldn’t have both.
Actually prosecuting the assailant was not an option. It wasn’t worth spending taxpayer money, they told the victim.
Appalled, Clayton refused the money. So the police upped the offer to £150 ($240). Clayton still refused, so police gave the woman a caution and let her go.
“I told them to stick their money and chose the caution because I wanted her to have a record in case she does this again,” Clayton said, who added that she is afraid to return to Spalding because het attacker lives there and “knows who I am.”
The Lincolnshire cops saw nothing wrong with how they handled the case.
“This is not about taking short-cuts, but cautions are effectively used to increase the amount of time my officers spend dealing with other crime and reduce the amount of time they spend completing paperwork and attending court,” said Inspector Jim Tyler. “Like most people, I would much rather my officers are out on patrol.”
However, Chief Inspector Philip Baker conceded that a vicious assault may not have been the right kimd of crime to use the cash-or-caution option. That system is usually employed only in very minor crimes, “such as when children put a window through,” he said.