Pathfinder is a Deferred Caution and Deferred Charge scheme run by Devon and Cornwall Police. The diversion scheme aims to reduce harm and re-offending through the use of interventions with a strong community focus.

Pathfinder is a Deferred Caution and Deferred Charge scheme run by Devon and Cornwall Police. The aim is to reduce harm and reoffending.


· Pathfinder is delivered across Devon and Cornwall by 14 Keyworkers, 2 Support Officers, 5 Volunteers and one Manager.

· It started in June 2017 as a deferred caution scheme.

· Between April and November 2018, we undertook a Randomised Control Trial as part of an evaluation with Cambridge University (the full evaluation will be published in 2021).

· In November 2018, we won the Howard League Policing and Adults Community Award in recognition of our work with low level offenders.

· In October 2019, we went live with our reduced Out of Court Disposal (OOCD) framework model; namely deferred caution and community resolution.

· In November 2019, we launched deferred charge. Currently, both these offers have been reduced to an 18-30 year old cohort in recognition of the research that this group benefits from diversionary interventions, however there is a plan to expand to all adults.  

The ethos behind Pathfinder

Established as our response to the strong evidence base of reduced reoffending from Checkpoint (Durham Constabulary). Pathfinder works in a criminal justice process but has a strong community focus. The Keyworkers are recruited from a range of backgrounds to ensure a mixed skill set including Police, Probation, Education, Drug and Alcohol and Domestic Abuse Services. The role of the Keyworker is to challenge harmful behaviours but to do so through building a supportive, collaborative professional relationship with those that participate in the scheme. We undertake holistic needs and strength- based assessments at the beginning and end of the four months to monitor outcomes. We advocate and broker multi agency responses and work closely with over 60 local voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations. We do not commission pathways as the keyworkers hold an important co-ordination role and can draw on their many contacts with local organisations

We believe in positive role modelling and the power of engaging participants in voluntary activities. We put considerable emphasis on the development of good practice in the brief interventions we deliver. 

What it is

There are two routes into Pathfinder, based on the seriousness of the offence. Both include a contract that lasts for four months but the intensity differs depending on the disposal and the level of risk and harm.  

Deferred Caution: This is an Out of Court Disposal. Compliance is monitored through a contract that is set as part of the caution. Our support officers contact offenders to set meaningful rehabilitative conditions and escalate to Keyworkers if high levels of risk or harm. There are mandatory conditions, and some rehabilitative conditions can also be set:

· Repairing harm through reparation. An example of this could be paying for any damage caused as reparation to the victim.

· Engaging with interventions to address underlying issues linked to their offending.

· If the victim requests, the offender must have an initial conversation with Restorative Justice services to explore if they want to engage in Restorative Justice (RJ).

Deferred Charge: This is an intervention as an alternative to Court.

· A Keyworker will contact the offender and ensure a full needs assessment is completed.

· Female offenders will be offered the option of a female worker.

· A contract will be agreed that will be bespoke to the individual and will include conditions designed to support changes in behaviour and reduce their risk of reoffending.

· Subsequent meetings and interventions might be out in the community for example meeting in community centres.


· Our needs assessments completed as part of the exit strategy show an improvement in all areas of need, across the cohort

· We have over 2,100 referrals to the scheme.

· We are responsible for 70% of all RJ referrals from the Force to Make Amends   

· 84% of offenders said that Pathfinder had ‘Helped a great deal’ in reducing their risk of reoffending, 16 % said ‘Helped a lot ‘

· Our participants have given over 4,000 hours of voluntary service back into the community, from beach cleans, helping at soup kitchens, painting rugby clubs, helping disabled children to surf, making hats for the homeless and many more

· We have embedded a female offer as the Forces response to the recommendations of the Corston Report, safeguarded the vulnerable, especially females that are low level offenders but in high risk domestic abuse situations

· We have incorporated trauma informed practice, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) awareness and proven offender-based approaches to ensure the quality of our interventions and good practice is central to our service delivery

· The pathfinder scheme has considerably reduced some of the time that police officers were spending that can now be targeted at other resources

Feedback from those who have been through the scheme has also been positive, an example of this is included below;

I would like to thank you for all your help during my time with pathfinder. When I was originally arrested, I couldn't have dreamt of what a positive effect it would have on my life. I really was at a low point in my life, smoking heroin on a regular basis and my relationship with my family was strained to say the least. With your help and guidance, I am now on a script and haven't touched heroin in months and my relationship with my family is a lot better, I'm even doing my volunteering with my mother. which we are both looking forward to. I found it particularly interesting to see the web graphs (wheel) of my thoughts and feelings when I started the course compared to my results now. I truly believe my life is for the better for the path finder scheme and I can’t say that about many experiences I've had in my life. Thank you for your help

For more information on Pathfinder, contact Pathfinder


This case-study was compiled in 2020

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