Justice System In Crisis

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18 Aug 2014

This Government has let victims down, left prisons to get out of control and let probation go into meltdown.

The Government have lost the confidence of victims and witnesses. They refused to bring in a Victims’ Law, persisting instead with a toothless and unenforceable victims' code. They left the position of Victims’ Commissioner vacant for over a year. They even spent their first weeks in office trying to introduce anonymity for rape suspects, until they were forced to back down.

Their record on sentencing is no better, having failed to introduce an automatic jail sentence for carrying a knife and introduce minimum and maximum sentences. Their attempt to introduce a 50 per cent sentence reduction for early guilty pleas was only seen off after fierce opposition from victims' groups.

They have also presided over a growing crisis in our prisons, with a lack of space and staff meaning that prisoners aren't being rehabilitated. Deaths and suicides in custody are rising, violence against prison staff is up, and hospital attendances by prisoners are at a record high. Millions have been spent on sacking prison staff - only for millions more to be spent trying to re-recruit them to deal with shortages. A recent spate of absconds by dangerous and violent prisoners has led many to question whether public safety is being endangered because corners are being cut.

They have dismantled and privatised the probation service, which plays a vital role in ensuring offenders are successfully rehabilitated and don't commit further crimes, ignoring warnings from experts, staff and senior officials that this would put public safety at risk.

I would like to see the criminal justice system transformed into a criminal justice service, geared towards protecting the public and supporting innocent victims of crime. We need to improve public confidence with transparency in sentencing, as well as reforming our prisons so that rehabilitation is at the heart of what they do.


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