Charles Saatchi attended a Police Station on Monday 18th June 2013 where he was cautioned by police, presumably for an offence of Common Assault. He accepted a caution, so he stated, because it was “better than the alternative, of this hanging over all of us for months“. In relation to the allegation ‘Saatchi said the pictures showed a “playful tiff”. He told the Evening Standard on Monday that the pictures gave a “more drastic and violent impression” of the incident than had been the case.’
Mr Saatchi attended voluntarily, that much is clear. It is not clear (at this stage at least) whether his above comment means that he was denying doing anything wrong, but it would appear so.
For an overview of what a police caution is, see here (see here for the official guidance from the Ministry of Justice). As I say, at this stage the facts are not clear (and it is unlikely that they will get clearer), but a few things are worth noting ;
1. By accepting a caution, Mr Saatchi accepted that he was guilty
This is clear. A caution cannot be administered unless there is an admission of guilty (usually in a police interview). Additionally, when a caution is ‘administered’ by the police, the suspect (Mr Saatchi in this case) must sign a form to accept the caution which makes it clear that they have accepted their guilt.
2. By accepting a caution, the offending admitted by Mr Saatchi must have been (relatively) serious
Not every criminal offence should be prosecuted – that is a fundamental rule of English justice. It must be in the ‘public interest’ to prosecute. For that reason, the behaviour admitted by Mr Saatchi must have reached a certain level of seriousness. It would be wrong to speculate on exactly what was said, so I won’t do that here.
See Caetano v MPC  EWHC 375 (Admin) for a recent example of a caution for an offence of domestic violence being quashed as it should not have been administered as the offending that had been admitted did not reach the requisite level of seriousness.
3. You do not need a complaint from a victim for there to be a prosecution
There has been a lot of discussion as to whether or not Ms Lawson, the victim of the offence, had, or should have made, a complaint to the police. Obviously, the police will normally act when the victim complains, but the CPS do not need a formal complaint from the victim to act.
In fact, the CPS can (and often do) prosecute when the victim does not want a prosecution. That is because they act on behalf of the public because of the harm that a crime does to the public. They are not there to act as lawyer for the victim, but of the lawyer for all of (see this post for more detail of the increasing role of victims in the justice system).
4. A caution is just a slap on the wrist
A caution is a formal record of guilt. As the High Court noted in the case I’ve linked to above:
- Although sometimes referred to in terms of a slap on the wrist without serious consequences, that is not so. The declaration which anyone who accepts a caution has to sign makes that clear. Dr. Caetano’s position illustrates it. She is not yet certain of her future employment. She may wish to work in the United States or Australia. She has to attend conferences all over the world. A caution for ‘assault by beating’ could be a serious impediment both to travel and work.
A cation will show up in an ‘enhanced’ Criminal Records Bureau check. It is a serious matter.