This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Swift & Sure: critique (part two)

Dear Minister

Thank you for letting me have sight of your white paper, Swift and Sure Justice: The Government’s Plans for Reform of the Criminal Justice System. It makes for fascinating reading especially as so much hinges on the role of the Police & Crime Commissioner.

Like you, I am absolutely for a more effective, efficient and versatile criminal justice system. Victims and communities deserve nothing less. Delays in justice benefit few whilst damaging many. As you know, I want the administration of justice to be focused on working for the many not the few.

You say that from “November Police and Crime Commissioners will be in a unique position to help galvanise the local police, prosecution and courts to work together and focus on preventing crime and reducing re-offending”. Interesting word galvanise: I was hoping you would expand on what you meant by it. Perhaps you might define it now?

The paper goes onto say that it has been written in part as a "response to the commitment given by the Prime Minister to learn the lessons from the highly effective and rapid reaction of the criminal justice agencies to last summer’s disturbances.” The reaction was rapid, but with what are you referencing ‘effective’?

Later, the paper defines sure as a system that “can be relied upon to deliver punishment and redress fairly and in accordance with the law and public expectation”.  I am surprised that you did not mention rehabilitation as in my world that is a key element of the justice system. In my view the public want a system based on punishment, redress and rehabilitation as they recognise that all three are the interwoven foundations of a fair and indeed economic justice system. Do you agree?

The paper seems to be conflating speed with efficiency as if they are one and the same. In my experience they are not: a fast car is anything but efficient for example. Moreover, in my years working on performance improvement, I know there is no earthly point making an ineffective process more efficient (or indeed speedier). The task must be first to tackle the ineffectiveness. What do you think?

The paper sets out “how we intend to reform criminal justice by: creating a swift and sure system of justice; and making it more transparent, accountable and responsive to local needs. In this way, we will transform criminal justice from an uncoordinated and fragmented system into a seamless and efficient service.” I appear to be missing a page between the two sentences showing, step by step, how greater transparency (etc.) will transform the system… Could you provide that please? (Although perhaps that comes later?)

You appear to be proposing a triage based approach whereby cases that can be dealt with swiftly, should be. That makes sense to me. The critical success factor in this will be to have a just and effective approach to this triage stage. The paper says that you will be extending pilots such as the “Early Guilty Plea scheme for Crown Court cases and Stop Delaying Justice in the magistrates’ courts” which will “fast track cases in which a guilty plea is anticipated”. Of the Early Guilty scheme, the paper says that “the results have been promising”. And of the Stop Delaying Justice scheme (launched only six months ago) that you “are now working with the judiciary to agree how best to monitor the impact”. In other words neither scheme has been evaluated before you intend to roll them out across the country. Do you believe that implementation should be based upon proper evaluation?

I will have more to say about sure, efficient, transparent and accountable justice in part three. I am also wondering if the section on effective justice has been left out somehow?

Meanwhile, I would value your response to my emboldened questions above. Thank you.

No comments:

Post a Comment