Posted: Friday 5th June 2020
For Volunteers’ Week we spoke to Mike Evans, an Out of Court Disposals (OOCD) volunteer, to find out more about what the Panel do and why their work is important.
What do you do as a member of the OOCD?
As a volunteer, I chair the OOCD Scrutiny Panel. OOCDs are a way of dealing with less serious offending.
Avon and Somerset Police are victim-focused and take into account the full circumstances of the offence, offender’s and victims’ wishes. It’s important to know that an offender has to admit they are guilty to be issued with an OOCD. There are three different types of OOCD, you can find out more about these on the police website.
The Panel meet every three months to scrutinise the use of OOCDs in response to national recommendations following concerns about their appropriate use. We help to ensure that their use is appropriate and proportionate, consistent with national and local policy, and considers the victims’ wishes.
The role of the Panel is important as we bring independent scrutiny to the use of OOCDs and ensure transparency in their use. Although we cannot change decisions made, the open and honest conversation with the police means that regular feedback is given to officers and any training needs can be recognised, for both individual officers and the whole police force.
Why did you become a volunteer?
I became a Magistrate because I wanted to make a difference. My role as a volunteer on this Panel means that I am able to make a difference in a different way. In my volunteer role, I get to meet with colleagues from partner agencies and those in the Criminal Justice System (CJS). I relish these interactions as they are incredibly useful and I learn new things from every meeting.
Why is your role important?
Our role is to point out where a decision is, in our opinion, not proportionate and feed that view back to the police and to individual officers. A representative from the police always attend our meetings and they are able to determine whether there is a wider training need, for example, the implementation of new legislation.
Equally important in our feedback to the police, our report highlights any areas of good practice; for example, where an investigating officer has dealt sensitively with an extremely challenging situation. It is just as important to let officers know that an independent review of the case has identified what a good job they have done in very demanding circumstances.
How has your role been impacted by the Covid-19 lockdown?
The Panel meet quarterly, so we were fortunate in that we were able to meet in March, just ahead of lockdown. When we meet, we review all the documents an officer has used to make a decision about an OOCD. Due to the sensitive nature of the information we see and the need to observe social distancing, it has meant that our June meeting has been cancelled. However, we have kept our September and December meetings in the diary where I look forward to reviewing more cases.