A caution given by the police is formal alternative to a prosecution in minor and less serious cases. It is most commonly used in England, Wales and Hong Kong and suits situations where a full prosecution is not appropriate for the case that is being heard. Although a police caution is not classed as a conviction, it is possible that it will be considered within court if the person is brought to court again. In other words, it could count against them in certain situations.
There are three main purposes to a police caution. Firstly, to deal with less serious offences quickly and easily. Secondly, to divert these unnecessary cases from being brought forward to the court and thirdly they can be used as a way of trying to reduce the likelihood of the person committing another offence. It is intended as a first official warning and also to deter people from continuing down a criminal path.
Recent changes to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 mean that cautions can be given in two forms. Firstly, a simple caution or a conditional caution which carries specific conditions where the person who committed the offence must meet certain requirements i.e. Attending a course that is aimed at correcting offending behavior.