Adult Caution Scheme

adult caution scheme

The Adult Caution Scheme was set up in 2006 with the purpose of affording an opportunity for a caution to be administered to a person who has committed a criminal offence where it was the view that this would be a better and fairer way of dealing with the matter, and in the public interest, rather than proceeding through the courts and the criminal justice system.  The benefit of an adult caution is that they are not disclosed in Garda Vetting Reports and police character certificates.  This is important in the context of applying for certain jobs and also applying for travel and residency visas.

If a person who has no previous convictions or has never engaged in criminal behaviour/activity has found themselves committing one of the offences applicable to the caution scheme, depending on the circumstances, administering an adult caution rather than proceeding by way of a full prosecution would be seen to be in the public interest.

The decision to administer and adult caution is made by the Superintendent, or Inspector acting on their behalf in the relevant Garda Station.  The following is taken into account when a Superintendent is deciding whether to administer an adult caution or not;

  • Your alleged behaviour
  • The surrounding circumstances
  • Evidence of your guilt
  • Your understanding of what a caution is and its significance
  • The public interest
  • The views of the victim

If the Superintendent deems a person suitable for a caution to be administered and that person is accepting responsibility for their criminal behaviour and also willing to accept the caution, the caution is administered and a formal warning is given to the person.  It is made clear to them that if they were to engage in criminal behaviour again that they may not receive the benefit of another caution in the future.  That is not to say that a person cannot receive more than one caution, however there would have to be extraordinary circumstances for subsequent caution to be administered.

One of the recent introductions to the Adult Caution Scheme was the offence of possession of cannabis under Section 3 of the Misuse of Drugs Acts 1977.  Up until December 2020 the Caution Scheme was not applicable to possession of drugs offences, however since them an adult caution can be administered for the offence of possession of cannabis.  The quantity of the cannabis would be an important consideration.  It should also be noted that this is applicable to cannabis only and the adult caution scheme is not applicable to other types of controlled drugs like cocaine, ketamine, ecstasy and heroin.

The adult caution scheme is only applicable to a certain list of offences.  The list of offences which are eligible for the Adult Cautioning Scheme are as follows:


Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994
Section 4: Intoxication (being drunk) in a public place
Section 5: Disorderly conduct in a public place
Section 6: Threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour in a public place
Section 8: Failure to comply with a direction (order) of a Garda
Section 9: Wilful obstruction (deliberate obstruction)
Section 11: Entering a building etc. with intent to commit an offence
Section 13: Trespass on a building etc. in a manner likely to cause fear (only for offences committed from 14 December 2020)
Section 21: Failure to comply with crowd control restrictions (only for offences committed from 14 December 2020)
Section 22: Surrender and seizure of alcohol.


Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001

Section 4: Theft – where the value of the property doesn’t exceed €1000
Section 8: Making off without payment (where the value of the payment is less than €1,000)
Section 17: Handling stolen property (where the value of the property concerned is less than €1,000)
Section 18: Possession of stolen property (where the value of the property concerned is less than €1,000)

Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003

Section 6: Offences by a drunken person
Section 8: Disorderly conduct

Non Fatal Offences Against The Persons Act 1997

Section 2: Assault – minor assaults (Assaults on members of the Gardaí are forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions for consideration)

Criminal Damage Act 1991

Section 2: Damaging property where the value of the property damaged is less than €1,00
Section 3: Threat to damage property

Misuse of Drugs Act 1977

Section 3: Possession of cannabis or cannabis resin (only for offences committed from 14 December 2020)

Casual Trading Act 1995

Section 3: Casual trading without or in breach of licence (only for offences committed from 14 December 2020)

Intoxicating Liquor Act 1927

Section 17: Persons on licensed premises during prohibited hours

Licensing Act 1872

Section 12: Public Drunkenness

Dublin Police Act 1842

Section 14(12): Nuisances in Public thoroughfares (applies to Dublin Metropolitan (Court) District Only)

Summary Jurisdiction (Ireland) Amendment Act 1871

Section 8: Offensive or riotous conduct in a theatre or other place of public amusement (applies to Dublin Metropolitan (Court) District only)

If you require further information or advice in relation to the adult caution scheme please feel free to contact our office at 01-6790780 or to arrange a consultation with our Associate Solicitor Eoghan O Sullivan.

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