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

Related Stories

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."


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 211.

    re 194, and why not use the soldiers? i think it would be good as a deterrent, some dont think so, why? definitely think its needed in city ctre hot spots, we need ts make prisons, prisons and not hol camps, also corruption at higher levels of society needs to be tackled head on and not brushed under the carpet, ie bankers ,politicians and the like, current system is two tier, grossly unfair

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    "...Oxford educated bankers commit crimes...a bunch of hippies sing in their tents, peacefully protesting...

    In banks you will also find cockney geezers working alongside graduates from other UK and worldwide universities. There are even black and asian people too !
    You should be careful how you stereotype...
    Perhaps some of the hippies were educated at oxbridge too...

  • rate this

    Comment number 209.

    These appears to be another policy designed to get a good headline which will be slowly implemented if implemented at all.

    The court system does need to be more efficent however the proposed scheme is not the way forward.

  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    Cameron & the entire government are morally bankrupt & have zero sense of justice anyway!...They prove it hourly!

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.


    'In Sept 2009, the Serious Fraud Office announced that it intended to prosecute BAE Systems for offences relating to overseas corruption. The Guardian claimed that a penalty "possibly of more than £500m" might be an acceptable settlement package.[133] On 5 February 2010, BAE Systems agreed to pay £257m criminal fines to the US and £30m to the UK.'*


  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

    Why isn't this in place anyway?....and while we are at it in this age of
    DNA profiling why aren't we executing police murderers and child murderers ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    After all said and done your average crim spends far more time in court than he ever does in a cell, so why not speed up the seeming irrelevance of the courts....?

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    One solution to resolve the balance between justice and the police work load is to find ways of reducing the utterly ludicrous workload on police for each and every prosecution. Recently a witness at assault and criminal damage in a pub - it tied up 2 policemen for ~2 hours just taking statements. Heaven knows what they had to do back at the police station. An horrendous waste of police time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    our legal system has needed upgrading for many years and the concept of freeing up court time with this method clearly makes one think that the government dont realy wish to advance our system they just want good press there are ideas and concepts far better that would cost less to impliment and help protect those innocent too.

  • Comment number 202.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    Maybe they should start with themselves, there's enough still untried criminal politicians walking around to fill a prison

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    This is just a tory gimmick to appease the daily wail.

    Expect more of these gimmicks from the tories in the next few weeks as they try and divert our attention from what is likely to be a disaster of an olympics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    183. ChaosEmerald
    Are we really that pathetic and weak that we need a "system" to help us all along?!

    Yes, you probably are. I know I am. I'm pretty sure that in a world where the strong (or well armed) took what they wanted without fear of some form of retribution from a "system" then I would not be able hang on to what I've got for very long.

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    I wonder how long it will be before the government does a another U-turn, rather than looking at the problem seriously. All the time the top people seem to get away with murder so to speak, the more restless the rest of the population becomes. Tackle the fraud and tax evasion at the top of the tree first!

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    This will just lead to a two tier justice system. Those that can afford lawyers to drag out cases and those that cannot who will be "encouraged" to plead guilty just to get through the case. What will follow will be human rights cases about being denied justice and millions paid out in compensation to those that have been "rushed" through. Well, can't say we weren't warned.

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

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

    Cannot help but think he is more concerned about the dent this may cause in his wallet. Solicitors and justice? A solicitor will defend a murderer knowing this and try to get them off on a technicality.

    Justice - a word losing it's meaning with every passing day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    All over the news recently that 2 extremely rich people were caught with 2 oz of cocaine plus heroin and other stuff and the charges were dropped,,,,, that is swift justice !!!!! H'mmmmm

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    maybe if we had our soldiers on the streets when the riots took place, a lot of the perpetrators would have been brought to justice sooner, perhaps some of the trouble may not have started, maybe the govt should look to use our soon to be redundant soldiers to help the pol on the streets, could have a +ve impact on crime, visible deterrent and that, less in jail = less strain on public funds maybe

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    Politician who fiddles expenses and has a garden pond - NO Crime
    Banker who fiddles - NO crime
    Companies who fiddle tax - NO crime
    Youth who stole trainers - Prison.
    Where is the justice in Britain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    A friend once told me that it was foolish to assume that a social contract existed between a state and its citizens. We spent years arguing about it. Slowly, sadly, he is being proven correct.

    So with no social contract in existence what obligation am I under to submit to the authority of the state - other than its use of overwhelming force? A State without moral authority is worth nought.


Page 17 of 27


More UK stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.