Page last updated at 15:29 GMT, Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Crime victim wins 'caution' fight

John Guest after he was attacked
John Guest said he hopes the decision will help other victims

A criminal justice expert has praised an attack victim who fought to have the perpetrator brought to court after he was given a conditional caution.

John Guest was attacked by Christopher Roy Watts at his home in Delhi Close, Poole, Dorset, in April 2008.

After learning of the caution, Mr Guest sought a judicial review and Watts was eventually given a suspended jail term.

Prof Chris Lewis, of the Institute of Criminal Justice at Portsmouth University, said the move was unusual.

He said: "It's very uncommon. A decision such as a conditional caution is usually regarded as the end of a case.

"But taking it to judicial review is a very uncommon procedure and it's very good for the community that the victim did that."

I didn't accept it. At no stage was I going to accept it
Attack victim John Guest

Watts, 51, who was originally given a conditional caution and ordered to pay £200 compensation, had his caution overturned in March.

Mr Guest, who described Watts as a friend of a friend, said the money did not even cover the cost of cleaning the blood from his carpets.

In September Watts pleaded guilty to actual bodily harm and was given a six-month suspended jail sentence and ordered to pay £1,000 compensation.

Mr Guest said of the caution: "I didn't accept it. At no stage was I going to accept it.

"I took on the authorities, Dorset Police, Crown Prosecution Service, ultimately the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Attorney General and indeed, one might say, the justice secretary, and I won.

"I just hope it brings success for other people because it won't change what happened to me."

'New Procedures'

A Dorset Police spokesman said: "The decision to pursue Mr Watts via a conditional caution disposal was made by the Crown Prosecution Service, after consultation with Dorset Police officers.

"Both the Dorset CPS and Dorset Police agree that this was a wrong decision and Mr Watts was subsequently prosecuted for an offence of causing Mr Guest actual bodily harm.

"Mr Guest has received an apology for the original decision from Dorset Police and we have confirmed that this case was not suitable for such an outcome.

"New procedures have been put in place to ensure that similar cases are not considered for this type of out of court disposal in the future.

"Violent offences such as that against Mr Guest continue to fall in Dorset for the seventh successive year."

The use of cautions for more serious crimes was the subject of BBC's Panorama programme on Monday.



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