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 391.

    When it costs $XX Million pound for a simple trial:
    Why does it cost so much money ?

    I think, like the bankers, the establishment is having a laugh.

  • rate this

    Comment number 390.

    Got nothing sensible to say 383 ConnorMacLeod.

  • rate this

    Comment number 389.

    For late night drunks, Police with video camera's would be well placed to record their drunken misdameanours and the Court could easily view the evidence.

    That would be a sensible start.

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    generally positive response from the Magistrates Association, but no detail ensuring only cases within the sentencing guidelines are brought in front of sole magistrates - who presumably will NOT all be sitting with a justices clerk to themselves to give them legal advice... The Magistrates may be volunteers who can only claim travel expenses, but that is not the case for their legal advisors.

  • rate this

    Comment number 387.

    "There are plenty of people who came from impoverished backgrounds but worked hard & did well."

    Usually they didn't do that well (unless you think a detached house and flash car fro working all hours is "well") and have had to give up their lives for really very little. Gov. have also been speeding up making those uni.s for foreign students legit now, see


  • rate this

    Comment number 386.

    383..To true ..but there are also plenty who havent..take the family down the mall..and cameron and co who are born to a better life..i was born at a time when we really didnt have a pot to pee..but these people in charge really shold walk a mile in the working classes shoes.we dont worry about £200 bottles of wine..we worry about paying the gas bill..

  • rate this

    Comment number 385.

    This country has become so corrupt over the 10 years that I was away.

    I just can not believe there has not been a massive popular uprising yet.

    Something along the lines of the French Revolution is called for.

    "Red ping - Blue pong" politics is to blame for a grossly unfair society.

    Now if you want justice go to a monastry - for law go to our corrupted expensive legal system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 384.

    Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.

    Frederick Douglass

  • rate this

    Comment number 383.

    " poor people are poor because they are victims of crime, and poor because of crimes committed by the state against its citizens"

    blah blah blah, poor me, the world is out to get me etc etc.
    It is this attitude that means the losers stay at the bottom. There are plenty of people who came from impoverished backgrounds but worked hard & did well.
    Don't make excuses...

  • rate this

    Comment number 382.

    375. AndyS: Okay. But keeping people on remand or stringing things out for five months is plain wasteful & does harm to the innocent. I'd support speeding things up for the good of all concerned, but I'd want to know what the problem really is. In 'cut & dried' cases it still takes five months to shuffle all the papers. Why? Is the law too labyrinthine or is someone taking the mickey?

  • rate this

    Comment number 381.

    You all do know that we are all in it together.
    Except those that can get away with it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 380.

    I respect your view but do not necessarily agree with it

    The idea of democracy is that everyone has a vote and everyone has a right to their say

    The crux is that the electorate, as uneducated and stupid as they might be, should govern the rudder of their OWN future.

    At present UK's rudder is broken and there are many rocks to our left and right.

    Why can so few damage so many?

  • rate this

    Comment number 379.

    Criminals don't usually make justice easy for the establishment unless the punishment is of no consequence, so very few would go this route anyway. Most minor offences are fined if no court requd anyway so where is the gain? personally I would never make it easy or cheap for the gov. given what they have done,doen't discourage protesting because things are so bad in this country anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 378.

    Will this include the bankers and mps ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 377.

    The only people that these will affect are the poor..the thieving lying sobs that are in parliament..public life and the banks will still get away scot free..so no change there then..remember earnest saunders..spared court because he had alzheimers starting..well he recovered and is back in business..he should patent his cure..would make a fortune..one for them and one for the poor !

  • rate this

    Comment number 376.

    Well said.
    It starts at the top and works all the way down.
    Re House of Lords Oakeshott:
    "There are an awful lot of people who are only there because they gave £1 million to Tony Blair or Margaret Thatcher or indeed - we have all had our problems with this - Lloyd George.

    "It is deeply corrupt. There is no way of appointing party peers to the House of Lords without corruption."

  • rate this

    Comment number 375.

    Herbert (sounds like an insult) says Justice delayed is justice denied. I would rather have justice done correctly no matter how long it takes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 374.

    Well with the QE of £50bn to the very Banks that has managed to get away with crime what really makes people think that the 50bn will be used for any kind of recovery to the UK?
    They will make 3fold of that money than wait for more QE

  • rate this

    Comment number 373.

    strange really the morality in Britain - "we must not tolerate misbehaviour", but we can tolerate unaffordable eduction, no cancer treatment, kids dying of diabetes with terrible care....I think that we cannot afford not to protest now, and to the vast majority of us we have so little in this country anyway that we might just as well give the corrupt gov.. some trouble and expense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 372.

    Banking scandal: Osborne defends cross-party probe

    Another cover-up by the powerful jobs worth.


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