Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

Ministry of Justice business plan 2010

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Slowly the shape of the reforms to the justice system that will be introduced over the life of the Coalition Government are beginning to emerge. On 8 November, the Ministry of Justice published its first business plan. The principles it contains are:

“1. Introduce a rehabilitation revolution by  creating a system introducing greater involvement of the private and voluntary sectors in the rehabilitation of offenders, including use of payment by results, to cut reoffending

2. Reform sentencing and penalties to ensure that the justice system reduces reoffending by introducing more effective sentencing policies and considering the use of restorative justice for adult and youth crimes

3. Reform courts, tribunals and legal aid, and work with others to reform delivery of criminal justice. This includes reforming the legal aid system to make it work more efficiently, while ensuring that government provides necessary support for those who need it most and for those cases that require it. Develop court reforms to improve the resolution of disputes, maximise efficiency and improve services and work with others to make delivery of criminal justice more effective and efficient

4. Assure better law by making law-making  transparent and accountable, safeguarding civil liberties and enabling citizens to receive the proper protection of the law

5. Reform how we deliver our services by reassessing the Department’s ways of working to develop more efficient shared services, matching provision ever more closely to demand, reducing duplication and streamlining functions wherever possible.

The Department will no longer  provide rehabilitation services directly without testing where voluntary or private sectors can provide it more effectively and efficiently nor run underutilised and inefficient court buildings.”

There is more detail in the accompanying document (see link below). What is immediately striking is, first, that the timetable for many of these important developments is already slipping – a number of tasks due for completion by the end of October are still awaited.

Secondly, the programme is very aspirational. Re-offending will not fall just because government wants to see it fall. There must be doubts about whether the investment in resources to prevent re-offending will be available.

Third, cuts in legal aid will be a real challenge if those who need help are to get it.

Fourth, increased use of ADR is unlikely without compulsion, something the ADR community has resisted till now.

However, as with the targets set by the previous Government, there is a statement of outcomes which can be reviewed as time passes. There is certainly a very challenging programme of work implied in the plan which – if all implemented – will reflect great determination by both Ministers and officials.  One of the biggest challenges will be to ensure that cross government issues are properly and efficiently addressed.

I will keep you up-to-date!

The details are available at


Written by lwtmp

November 9, 2010 at 5:01 pm

Posted in Chapter 3

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