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 311.

    One of the signs of a Fascist state is the speed of its so called "Justice" system...
    The government care little for Justice I'm afraid. It takes as long as it takes to get to the truth. The right to a fair trial by a jury of ones piers, being innocent until proven guilty and not to be forced to incriminate ones self are the foundations of Justice. They should be preserved at all costs..!

  • rate this

    Comment number 310.

    People have been saying for years that the criminat justice system needs to be speeded up, so it's not fair for the government to take credit. Like others of their headline grabbing bright ideas, it probably won't come to fruition, However, I think justice should be a fast track at least for young people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 309.

    This Tory Lib Dem coalition becomes more hypocritically perverted each & every day!

    The so-called 'rule of law' & 'swift justice' [sic] does not apply to bankers' fraud or MPs fiddling expenses (theft & fraud by any other name).

    Out of 650 MPs - how many were actually criminally prosecuted?


    How many bankers?

    Why have the SFO only just started to investigate criminal bankers?

  • rate this

    Comment number 308.

    'Police Minister Nick Herbert announces criminal justice plans'

    The Coalition Government.

    Tough on petty crime.

    Couldn't give a monkey's about corporate theft.

  • rate this

    Comment number 307.

    It one more line drawn between us and them, they are innocent because thay can afford to be, the poor are guilty because they can not offord not to be. The system will get so efficiant that the poor will only know they have committed a crime when the bill drops on the mat. Very much like the council tax courts work now ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 306.

    It is way past time that criminals in this country are treated less well than their victims.The Neo Marxist New Labour policies that protected criminals and inconvenienced further the victims of crime were one of the many political correctnesses that have almost brought Britain to its knees morally. Thank God if we can't mend the economy we can at least have a go at mending justness and fairness.

  • Comment number 305.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 304.

    294. Sibbwolf: What about borrowing David Blaine's glass box & suspending wrongdoers above the high-street for 'x' days, but stark naked?
    Personally I'd have them picking every scrap of rubbish out of hedges & verges, and sorting huge piles of recycling. Something boring but useful that nobody else is going to do, with an opportunity to work with others doing something obviously worthwhile.

  • rate this

    Comment number 303.

    Can only agree with 197 Stoketom.
    This is utter nonsense , and will cause one hell of a carry on , when human rights lawyers become involved with it , which they most certainly will!! ! Mr Herbert, drop this utter stupidity now or even better resign because you are obviously way out of your depth , in regard to the job you have!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 302.

    Hanging Judge Jeffreys handed out 144 death sentences over 2 days. Very swift & efficient but hardly "justice". 4yrs in prison for "inciting " on Facebook? 6 months for a bottle of water? You cannot compare the riots with ordinary court process. They were mostly caught red handed and "appropriate sentencing" went out the window to "set an example". Doesn't take so long to throw the book at someone

  • rate this

    Comment number 301.

    Justice is defined as
    1. the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness: to uphold the justice of a cause.
    2. rightfulness or lawfulness, as of a claim or title; justness of ground or reason: to complain with justice.
    3. the moral principle determining just conduct.

    Speed should have nothing to do with it.. as long as it is just and fair!

  • rate this

    Comment number 300.

    288. Maxone
    "Some Government Ministers want to re-introduce witchcraft trials in the local neighbourhood too!"

    Guess that's me done for, red head, freckles, cat and I own a broom, oh yeah, and I'm working class.

  • rate this

    Comment number 299.

    But who is this appicable to? Some guy on the street that gets caught stealing or someone who spends public money upgrading their duck pond? Only time shall tell...

  • rate this

    Comment number 298.

    294. Kind of weird to compare national service to medieval punishment, considering you didn't have to have committed a crime to do it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 297.

    I'm sorry but whenever one of these pompous tory windbags start talking about things like "swift and sure justice" a mental picture pops into my head of Jonathan Aitken making his famous speech about how he was going to rely on the "simple sword of truth and the trusty shield of British fair play" to get off the charges of perjury and perverting the course of justice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    287 cantonboycardiff

    Well said. I see that like me you have had some posts removed though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    270. Adam
    'These ideas look sensible, but I'd like to know how these 'Neighbourhood Justice Panels' will work in practice.''

    We already have ''Neighbourhood Justice Panels'' they are called local JPs* = Magistrates!

    This is simply a Tory kangaroo court ''justice'' [sic] on the cheap using volunteers to replace legally trained District Judges & local 'Neighbourhood' *Justices of the Peace!

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    Community service stills costs the taxpayer. However, unlike most prisons, it seems, community service does something useful.

    Putting stocks in towns squares might actually be a good idea. A lot of these 'kids' might actually benefit from the experience.

    Yes, I know, medieval thinking. But we can't draft them into compulsory military service anymore..

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    Does this swift justice apply to white collar crimes, fraud, tax evasion, banksters, financial terrorists and perjury from the murdoch squad, or is it just for all us little people?

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    Frankly any talk of 'tough on crime' is risible. We have had years if not decades of criminals laughing at our justice system and law abiding citizens getting more and more frustrated.

    The underlying criteria has been to avoid building more jails and sentencing has been made to fit.


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