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 371.

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

    Vigilante justice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 370.

    Good idea - at least the Public won't be paying the extra costs of Solicitors (the Nouveau Bankers) 'hanging out' Cases for as long as possible for the extra income. Courts NEED 'bucking up'...

  • rate this

    Comment number 369.

    I just cannot believe just how many ill informed uneducated people, who attempt to influence political status of others actually write to these blogs. Absolutely amazing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 368.

    tru life poor people are because they let themselves be poor if you don't work you never get rich because being rich require work and effort even if born rich since someone always wants what you have. though taxes and benefits the greed of the poor. lack effort is part of being poor.
    getting rich is not easy but requires lots of effort and sacrifice which hard.

  • rate this

    Comment number 367.

    If they speed it up enough they should be able to convict even before a crime has been committed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 366.

    Years ago when it was up to police station senior officer as to whether there was a case to answer you were in court at the first opportunity, usually the following day,then depending on the severity of the crime the court either bailed you or remanded you or sentenced you or dismissed the charge; then came the CPS and it all went to pot with them deciding what to do and taking their time about it

  • rate this

    Comment number 365.

    When we have 'no delay' on justice for bankers and ministers abdicating their duties then fair enough.

    Until then blatant hypocrisy reigns supreme...

  • rate this

    Comment number 364.

    The fashion of law at present, being poor is a crime, in fact poor people are poor because they are victims of crime, and poor because of crimes committed by the state against its citizens. Bad people in powerful jobs who are not held to account and hell bent on harming our own citizens. The UK state is corrupt, falling apart, is going down in a sea of corruption.

  • rate this

    Comment number 363.

    Thing is in the position I'm in at 46 educated but with absolutely no chance of work because of ill-health I probably face a choice of being forced to sweep up at poundland or else protesting and perhaps loosing my freedom, and I think there isn't much difference except that the second option is probably far less convenient, more expensive (for those turds), so in the absense of education I think.

  • rate this

    Comment number 362.

    It's step in the right direction .Our society must not tolerate misbehavior.

  • rate this

    Comment number 361.

    Honest people falsely or mistakenly arrested will need time to prepare a defence. Criminals correctly arrested may plead not guilty invoking a time period to prepare a defence. Only the guilty will be dealt with immediately.

    Justice 'in hours' strangely relies on the honesty of criminals.

  • Comment number 360.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 359.

    The Tories and Lib Dem's would have us all back in the 18th century. In the work houses were the poor belong! Or even in service to the minority rich! Not for me folks and we have the right to protest and if they want to take that away then civil war I think!

  • rate this

    Comment number 358.

    After reading yet another absolutely HORRIFIC account of two inmates at Durham jail who killed a young rapist and then attempted to eat the victim's liver, it must surely be blindingly obvious that only the death penalty for 1st degree convicted murderers can ever rid society at large of such undesirable people who are clogging up the prison system at great cost.

  • rate this

    Comment number 357.

    Just now

    "Yes we do want to see speedy justice Mr Cameron so when are we going to see bankers and MPs who put in false expense claims put in front of a judge?"

    Never. A clue to why never: Wisteria

  • rate this

    Comment number 356.

    I'm having a think really at the moment myself having just finished an OU degree (hopefully) in a subject I'm not keen on, and wondering if I should try to get a computing diploma this year(prob. too expensive) or else try to do some occupying or rioting. Thing is now education is so expensive can't afford education, so will prob have to riot instead. Their "justice" makes no difference to me...

  • rate this

    Comment number 355.

    "How about, instead of allowing police and judiciary to dispense swift crowd-pleasing justice, we just stop shooting people and then planting guns on them?"

    Its Radical but hay its worth a shot !

  • rate this

    Comment number 354.

    "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..."

    I'm sure victims would prefer to see adequate numbers of police investigating properly rather than convictions being overturned on appeal due to rushed inquiries.

    Guess this could give G4S more work though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 353.

    If I could afford a suit and spoke with a posh voice, I would not be a criminal

    No, but you might be, a banker politician or a millionaires daughter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 352.

    Yes we do want to see speedy justice Mr Cameron so when are we going to see bankers and MPs who put in false expense claims put in front of a judge?


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