Police Minister Nick Herbert announces criminal justice plans

Rioting in England After the England riots of August 2011, courts opened on weekends and for longer hours

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Criminals could be dealt with in days or hours under plans to introduce "swift and sure justice" and flexible court hours, ministers have revealed.

Police Minister Nick Herbert has published a White Paper proposing more court video links and tougher community sentences in England and Wales.

Neighbourhood justice panels will see local people decide how offenders should make amends for low level crime.

But solicitor Greg Foxsmith said: "Justice rushed is justice denied."

'No need for delay'

Mr Herbert denied it was "gesture politics" and told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The whole point of these reforms to ensure swift and sure justice is about putting the victims first. There is no need for unnecessary delay in our criminal justice system.

"It is in the interest of justice that people are dealt with appropriately and, where they are going to court, that they are brought to court as soon as possible and that is not happening at the moment."

Police Minister Nick Herbert: "Justice delayed is justice denied"

In the aftermath of last year's riots, courts across England opened for longer and on weekends to deal with the large volume of people going through the criminal justice system.

Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan said: "The public, victims, even defendants themselves are right to expect that those accused of crimes are dealt with quickly and efficiently. But while more evening and weekend sittings, and more justice handed down at the community level, sounds practical, it won't come cheaply. I hope the government are going to explain exactly how this is going to be funded."

In October, Prime Minister David Cameron said the public wanted to see speedy justice, and that if it was possible in the wake of the riots then "let's make sure we do it all the time".

Typically, nearly five months pass between an offence taking place and a sentence being handed down, despite the fact that most cases do not have to go to trial or are uncontested.

The neighbourhood justice panels, aimed at helping people deal with anti-social behaviour and low-level offending in their community, have already been trialled in three areas - Sheffield, Norfolk and Somerset - and will be tested in a further 15.

'Justice delayed'

The Ministry of Justice says the panels will directly involve the victim and community in deciding action on the part of the perpetrator that is meaningful, visible and based in the community itself.

Magistrates will be given a stronger role in community justice, with single magistrates sitting outside of courts, such as in community centres, in order to "dispense rapid and effective justice in low-level, uncontested cases".

Richard Monkhouse, Magistrates Association: "The delay is getting it into court"

Police will be given simpler guidance on how to deal with offenders, under the plans.

Under the proposals:

  • Shoplifting cases currently taking five weeks could be dealt with in 13 days or fewer, or even hours where the offender pleads guilty in a virtual court
  • A pilot scheme will be rolled out so courts can sit when needed, with some 100 magistrates' courts already sitting on Saturdays and bank holidays
  • Magistrates will be able to scrutinise the use of cautions and penalty notices by the police following concerns that serious and persistent offenders were escaping justice.

The Association of Chief Police Officers said greater efficiency "has to be in the best interests of victims, prosecution and defence witnesses and all parties within the wider criminal justice system".

Javed Khan, chief executive of Victim Support, welcomed the White Paper and said: "The justice system can be painfully slow. Many victims and witnesses tell us that waiting for a trial - or even just information about a case - is particularly stressful."

John Fassenfelt, chairman of the Magistrates' Association, said: "While most of our members will be pleased to see a role for single justices to deal with low-level uncontested cases, we are concerned about the venue to safeguard judicial independence and that such powers for this role should be for the judiciary only and not delegated to justices' clerks."

Mr Foxsmith, a solicitor and legal commentator, told Today: "I am worried that some of these proposals are going to mean that with the push towards speedier and swifter justice we are going to lose something along the way, and that is the justice element."

Mr Foxsmith, who is also a Liberal Democrat councillor in Islington, north London, said: "Justice rushed is justice denied. We pride ourselves in this country on a fair system of law and that means evaluating the case, investigating it properly and in fairness to both sides making sure the evidence is properly examined."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    Young pillocks breaking shop fronts can be dealt with very quickly, almost automated justice, yet undesirable individuals tap the legal aid up for months and years. Follow the money - always follow the money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    Yay! Kangaroo courts, just what the country needs to Sort Us Out. A positive step on the road to more dynamic Law Enforcement as brought to you by Judge Dredd! "I am the Law: Judge, Jury and Executioner"

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.


    Labour put an end to the with the criminals charter (Human rights act).

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    93. Robbo
    Labours 11 year mismanagement of the Country created a selfish society..blah..blah..Daily Mail tripe..blah..blah

    Yawn. It was Margaret Thatcher that created the "devil take the hindmost, I'm alright Jack", selfish Britain we now live in. It is to Labour's eternal shame that they allowed it to continue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    "Swift and sure" justice needs also to be meted out to the top end of society, too, for example the bankers and MP's fiddling expenses.

    Everything this government seems to propose affects the lower end of the food chain....

    Nick a telly or a pack of sweets and you appear in court and jailed within days. Embezzle millions and get a knighthood, golden handshake, and banqueted at No 10.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    "Punishment should be proportional to one's ability to compensate the establishment"

    In other words - you would give those with no money a free pass to do what they like with no regard for others ?
    You haven't really thought that one through...!
    The same laws and punishments should apply to everybody - rich or poor.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    Not so swift and sure for the corrupt banking fraudsters though. Boot camp for the plebs and 2 million pound pay outs for the toffs. Equal justice for all!

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    Ha ha ha. This is just another soundbite that will never come to be. Nick Herbert did study some law but also did land economy - a course with a reputation for attracting some real thickos. Even if he can persuade magistrates to sit on bank holidays (most won't), the majority of defence solicitors will simply ask for an adjournment as they will claim they have not had time to prepare.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    @85.JonathanB Are we expecting a riot?

    Yesterday the Govt. announced it'll be putting an extra 3000 soldiers on the streets of London.
    Today we get an announcement of the curtailment and partial suspension of usual legal process.
    I'd say the evidence is mounting that they are...
    Presumably the whole of London will be declared under Section 44. 'Martial Law declared during the Olympics'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    I have to say, given the way things are I might be doing some protesting or rioting myself, just waiting for the right opportunity to appear. I'm 46 now, so what they do to me doesn't really matter any more - in fact it might have the advantage of stopping them trying to force me into the terrible work I used, years ago for the govt. where my conscience was tortured every single day.

  • Comment number 101.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    Presumably these courts will bring swift justice to those in power who abuse their priviledged positions to fix, abuse and break the law in the name of profit?

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    What have been the results of the pilot schemes?
    Being a slightly cynical soul that Mr Herbert is using political speak to justify the idea seems peculiar, if they have tested it and found it does work then just present the results of the successful pilots as justification. No aspirational waffle is required.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    Yet more Tory hypocrisy & delayed law enforcement for the criminal elite in the City from the low-life sleaze of a Government & their forces of 'law & order' SFO yet again!

    Why the years of 'delay' & no 'swift justice' [sic] for criminal bankers fraud? No arrests yet,no prosecutions, no court cases!

    Tory sleaze 'justice' - hypocrites!

    How many criminal UK City bankers prosecuted since 2008?

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    Ahhh, the lynch mobs' charter. Sharia anyone? Whatever happened to professional policing and sensible state prosecution?

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    "Austerity justice. Unfortunately we will not be all in it together - no quick trials for corrupt politicians."

    Of course. Whereas if some kid is pulled over and charged with possession, the chances of anyone umming and ahhing about whether a jury really has the specialist knowledge to understand the case are pretty slim.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    As many have already said - let's start with swift justice for the criminals running the banks, large corporations, newspapers and the politicians paid to do their bidding.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    My country is disappearing. The RAF will 'shoot first and ask later', Mr Herbert plans 'swift justice' and we're about to force disabled pensioners to pay back money given in error. Is this a warm up for the return of the 'nasty party', or do we have a 'nasty coalition'?

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    About time - Labours 11 year mismanagement of the Country created a selfish society with values that was the ideal environment for criminals to flourish. These are now coming out of the woodwork. Not only do the crims need dealing with we also need to deal with underlying attitudes that allow this is perpetuate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    Whilst I do not condone in any way what the rioters did, and swift justice is to be applauded, I do think now the govt should spend more time and effort looking into the underlying causes of the unrest.in order to prevent these apalling events happening again.


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