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 231.

    Is it under this proposal; proposed that people accused of asking their wife to take the rap for their driving indiscretions, are more speedily prosecuted?

    C McK

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    Mentoring by business and other experienced leaders would be a more positive approach:
    Bod Diamond to run sessions on the importance of the relationship between rewards effort and ethics.
    Jeff Archer could offer insights into the importance of veracity in a legal context whilst Conrad Black could reflect on the positive impact of rehabilitation.
    Lord Ashcroft of Crimestoppers to head it up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    216. Under-Used
    @207 Maxone

    ''You forgot the bit where Tony Blair implicitly stated that certain crimes were in the interest of the UK by vetoing a prosecution on 'National Interest' grounds.''

    Indeed! So-called 'National Interest' grounds' = closing down criminal prosecutions cases that get too close to the UK criminal State / Government / MPs, business crimes etc!

    UK 'justice' is a sham!

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    I notice this entire article seems to have been purged from the BBC news page. Could it be the high level of public interest and anger over this that now this story is being moved to the backshelf, so less people can read it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    The Tories are just scared that there's going to be more rioting because they are robbing everybody left right and centre.

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    "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."

    Steady on - you're making it sound like something out of "Mad Max" !

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    Justisce is only Justice when it applies to everyone in society, regardless of the crime,

    dds--ad (10) I agree with you, though I suspect it's not just the politicians fraudulent actions that will go unpunished!

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    The selfishness and criminality in society you refer to was introduced when the family silver (i.e., vital UK infrastructure) was sold off to the highest bidder, with little regulation in place.

    Agreed! I remember the thatcher years - bringing a culture of selfish g greed, disrespect for established systems and damaging the stability of our society! State funeral my deregulated derriere!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    For once I agree with this proposal. Too many people fail to understand that considerable crime is down to pure selfish behaviour and a total disgregard for others. But this wicked government are then pushing more people into crime due to unjust social policies. Britain never seems to get the balance right. Hammer corporate crime, hammer tax fruad and tax evaision also please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    Is it also time to review the pay and costs of those in the judiciary? are the taxpayers getting value for money, or are we going to find overpaid employees with lots of holidays and perks? if the justice systen was better value we could afford to have more courts and swifter justice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    There will never be justice in Britain.The privileged and wealthy are exempt from prosecution.They can steal, fiddle, drink drive and take drugs and get away with it.If i were a richman yab yab yab yabber yab

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    Swift justice, hmm!!

    That's what they called hanging people without due process or kangaroo courts. History repeats itself, because we were not listening first time around.

  • Comment number 219.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    Acts that are crimes when committed by the popul at large become 'mistakes' when committed by the wealthy and influential. It seems the 'great & good' have a right to be regarded as basically 'good' whereas the proles do not. Inequality is itself the reward for 'playing the game' and not troubling other members of the elite. Efficiency is great, but what I want to see is equality before the law.

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    Selfishness has always ben there in the west but really got it big break when a Margaret Thatcher in the eighties announced


    I'm guessing from your simplistic tub-thumping that you find it difficult to seperate fantasy from reality at the best of times but just to let you know, that line is attributed to the character Gordon Gekko in the film 'Wall Street'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    @207 Maxone

    You forgot the bit where Tony Blair implicitly stated that certain crimes were in the interest of the UK by vetoing a prosecution on 'National Interest' grounds.

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    There must be many cases where the facts are such that this could work.

    I'm pleased that work is now proposed as a sentencing option.

    I think this should include piecework rather than time, say, to clean up 10,000 bricks from demolition sites for reuse, as that could not be shirked.

  • Comment number 214.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 213.

    You can make things as speedy as you like but our courts are already in a state of chaos due to poor administration , and many of the fines handed out are never paid. . Too many senior police officers are appointed on the basis of gender and ethnic balance rather than ability. We ned to get the right people in the right jobs before trying to speed things up

  • rate this

    Comment number 212.

    Won't work the lawyers will lose too much money if the system is speeded up.


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