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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  • Comment number 191.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    Call me old fashioned but what's the point of trying to teach youngsters and petty criminals a lesson in personal responsibility when those in power so freely abrogate same for their peers and sponsors.
    The upper echelons are rotten to the core, nobody can or will take them seriously, least of all unemployed youngsters with zero prospects....

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    "Sounds like Daily Mail justice to me."

    I can't stand the Daily Mail either but they are able to capitalise on the fact that communities suffer because of our total inability to deal with a hard core of repeat offenders who do not care about other people's lives or property or quality of life.
    Don't forget, people died in those riots trying to protect their homes and businesses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    At first glance this looks like a piece of tabloid politics. On the other hand if it does not increase re-offending rates or lock up the innocent then it should have been done ages ago.

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.


    "...a lot that people can blame Maggie for. "

    totally agree - but that doesn't justify turning to crime. That's a choice people make, and if they make that choice, then they have to expect punishment if caught.

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    We need to make prisons more like prisons. We have grown too soft thanks to the ECHR and criminals no longer see prison as a deterrant. Prisoners have to get a choice of 5 different lunchs each day I'm not in prison and i don't have that. They have flat screen TVs, games consoles and any drugs they want thanks to lax G4S security. I know hard working people who have less luxuries than prisoners.

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    mess 130,
    "It`s such an easy way to blame politicians and the system. Is it asking too much for people to take responsibility for their own lives and stop looking for some one else to blame?"

    Yep, I`m afraid it is asking to much... of the politicians, bankers and the elite, who are expected to run things with integrity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.


  • rate this

    Comment number 183.


    UGHHH! it makes me sick when people talk about "the system" letting people down. Are we really that pathetic and weak that we need a "system" to help us all along?!

    anyone accusing "the system" of letting them down has more than likely let themselves down. If they have no self respect, why on earth should anyone else respect them?

    what a sad, weak, state-dependant culture.

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    My previous comment was removed. It mentioned
    Gove (Mrs.Blurt)

    wonder why

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    Every decent citizen will appaud the idea of swift criminal justice, however, we hear little of swift justice for those that have created the misery for millions through their greed and manipulation od financial markets. This seems so unfair as in sport their is such a thing as sporting integrity much lauded these days in Scotland but again it is the decent supporters that are being punished???

  • Comment number 180.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    72.Nicola Courtney

    I have been made redundant twice, recenlty faced it again & at 45 worry about getting another decent job. Does that mean I can go out rioting and you will excuse me for it and say the govt should do more?
    Of course not, there are jobs, you just have to want to go out and get them and sacrifice a little.
    Good swift justice for victims is most welcome.

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    Nice to see the BBC allowing open incitement to riot .

    I know the BBC editors will be richly rewarded by ed balls when they deliver him the country .

    But doing so at the fee payers expense stinks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    I am so tired of these Daily Mail friendly policies that this government roll out weekly without thought or care. As they create an increasingly disenfranchised youth through their social and economic policies they change the law to deal with the potential response. How dark and cynical they are. The post rioting sentencing was disproportionate and damaging and was no example of justice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    I see that on today's Politics Show the former Tory MP & Tory Government Minister Jonathan Aitken convicted for criminal perjury* was wheeled out today for a nostalgic discussion!

    *Aitken 'was convicted of perjury in 1999 and received an 18-month prison sentence, of which he served seven months.'*

    Tory 'justice' & short prison terms for Tory MPs


  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    I think many people would approve of this "swift and sure justice", if it also applied to greedy fraudulent bankers, MPs who fiddled their expenses, Corporate companies who fiddle their taxes, along with the rioters and the like. After all, aren't we all supposed to be in this together.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    137.SeeDubya "Guess which group Nick Herbet's "swift and sure justice" is aimed at?"

    Neither of the groups you mention. However there is a genuine anger at the way people who commit 'community' crime (e.g. burglary, assault) are allowed to repeat again and again. It isn't hard to understand why people are angry about this. However, I suspect the announcement is purely headline grabbing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    @165, pleading guilty I kinda agree with. Repeat offences less so.

    I'd rather see the government looking at loopholes, the over-abundance of "mitigating circumstances" in ridiculous situations and reducing the "advice" judges and magistrates receive when determining sentences. I also want to see Politicians made properly accountable and an end to Parliamentary Privilege.

    Too much to ask?

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    "We need minor offenders to live in the community and learn that their actions damage others lives"

    You must be crazy if you think community service acts as any sort of deterrent. Some criminals don't even bother to turn up for it.
    Many criminals DO live in the communities where they commit crimes. They know how their actions affect others - they just don't care...


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