Ministry of Justice plans for fundamental reform and “better law”
8 November 2010
The MoJ’s ‘vision’ is certainly ambitious. Despite the cuts, there will be “better law“. This will come from a programme of “fundamental reform” which will cure the problems of “too much litigation, too many people reoffending and too much money spent on systems”.
Under the heading “Coalition Priorities”, the MoJ provides its plans for structural reform. It is not clear whether these are in order of priority:
1. Introduce a rehabilitation revolution
• Create a system introducing greater involvement of the private and voluntary sectors in the rehabilitation of offenders, including use of payment by results, to cut reoffending
2. Reform sentencing and penalties
• Ensure that the justice system reduces reoffending by introducing more effective sentencing policies and considering the use of restorative justice for adult and youth crimes
3. Reform courts, tribunals and legal aid, and work with others to reform delivery of criminal justice
• Reform the legal aid system to make it work more efficiently, while ensuring that we provide necessary support for those who need it most and for those cases that require it. Develop court reforms to improve the resolution of disputes, maximise efficiency and improve services and work with others to make delivery of criminal justice more effective and efficient
4. Assure better law
• Assure that law-making is transparent and accountable, safeguarding civil liberties and enabling citizens to receive the proper protection of the law
5. Reform how we deliver our services
• Reform the way the Ministry of Justice works. Reassess our ways of working to develop more efficient shared services, match our provision ever more closely to demand, reduce duplication and streamline our functions wherever possible
Much of this was already known. It has been widely reported that Kenneth Clarke’s MoJ will put more emphasis on non-custodial rehabilitation, which will apparently result in six prisons being closed for good. It is also well-known, and causing much concern, that legal aid will take a large hit. Proposals for legal aid reform are to be ready by Autumn 2010, with a consultation taking place from now until early 2011. The reforms will be instituted by Spring 2011. Reforms to family court services will not be instituted until May 2012, however. A major review is already underway, but the government will be wary of rushing into reforms into the fiendishly complex family justice arena.
Under the “assure better law” heading, the MoJ plans to increase transparency of court results and the effectiveness of sentences, including publishing court data in an open and standardised format. All has gone quiet recently on the promised commission to investigate the creation of a UK Bill of Rights. According to the MoJ plan, this will be established by December 2011.
Also on the “better law” topic, unnecessary laws will be repealed by way of a Freedom Bill by February 2011, libel law will be reformed by May 2012 and coverage of the Freedom of Information Act will be extended by April 2011.
A Cabinet Office Green Paper will be developed to “develop options for the use of intelligence and sensitive material in judicial proceedings… to ensure that arrangements best serve the interests of justice and national security.” It is not clear whether this will bolster or undermine the civil courts’ recent trend towards protecting open justice, but we should know by July 2011.
Full details of the MoJ’s plans, including time-scales for the reforms, can be found in the Business Plan document, or in this slightly trendier presentation of the same on the No. 10 website. The MoJ are also inviting people’s comments on the plan by way of an email to email@example.com or by letter to Ministry of Justice Transparency team, 6th floor, 102 petty france, London, SW1H 9A. We would also be interested in your views by way of the comments section below.
Updated, 9 Nov 2010 – The Commission on the bill of rights will only be established by December 2011, it will not as previously posted have to report by then (thank you to the UKSC Blog for alerting me to this slip). This sounds like a long time to establish a committee and set terms of reference.
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