Campaigners urge new Government to stick to promises and fix ‘justice system in crisis’

Police and legal campaigners have called on the new Government to stick to its pre-election promises and fix a “justice system in crisis”.

Policing must be at the heart of the agenda, the Police Federation of England and Wales said.

National chairman John Apter (pictured) said: “This morning I have written to Prime Minister (Boris) Johnson to congratulate him and his party on their win but also to remind him of the promises he made about policing before and during the election campaign.

“And while I want to continue the positive relationships we have been building with him and his ministers, I want to stress that we are not here to be their friends.”

He called for a “constructive and productive relationship” that is “more than just warm words”.

Caroline Goodwin QC, chairwoman of the Criminal Bar Association, said it was time for the Government to “get justice done” and called for “no gimmicks, half-truths or vague promises”, adding: “Brexit or no Brexit, without billions of reinvestment back into the entire criminal justice system, the United Kingdom gets undone.

“We welcome the new Government but there is no new magic cure for a broken justice system.

“Our message is simple: invest, invest and invest again. There is no option left for any Government but to invest properly and substantially in the criminal justice system from end to end.

“To do anything less would be criminally reckless with all our lives.”

The comments come as the latest Ministry of Justice (MoJ) figures estimated the number of outstanding criminal cases in crown courts between July and September rose by 3% on the previous quarter.

At the same time magistrates’ court workload rose by 4% compared with the same period a year earlier and on average it is taking longer for cases to be dealt with, the report said.

Cases involving sexual offences and violence against a person “continued to have the highest waiting times” of more than 22 weeks and 19 weeks respectively.

In the family courts, the average waiting time for some care and supervision case hearings to take place also rose.

Domestic violence applications – mainly non-molestation orders – in civil courts rose by 23% to 7,876 compared with the previous year. This is the “highest quarterly number of applications since the time series began at the start of 2009”, the report said.

“Record numbers” of applications (9,407, up 19%) and orders (12,216, up 34%) were made under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 between July and September compared with the same period the previous year, which was the “highest quarterly volume seen since the start of the series”.

Almost double the number of protection orders from forced marriage (140) were made in the courts compared with the previous year.

The Law Society of England and Wales said the new Government needs to fix a “justice system in crisis” with vice president David Green saying it needs “an immediate and sustained boost in funding”.

The society has called on the government to:

  • Reform the legal aid system
  • Review police powers to release suspects under investigation as soon as possible
  • Ensure during Brexit negotiations that lawyers will continue to be allowed to practise and base themselves in the EU

During the election campaign, the Conservatives made a string of promises on tackling crime and investing in policing and the justice system, including:

  • Recruiting 20,000 police officers over the next three years to replace those lost amid budget cuts since 2010 as well as giving more of them Tasers and giving them powers to tackle illegal traveller camps as well as those who carry knives
  • Making police and crime commissioners more accountable
  • Immediately arresting knife-wielding offenders, charge within 24 hours and see them appear in court within a week
  • Handing violence reduction units £35 million next year to fund preventative work
  • Investing £500 million in youth services in a bid to cut young offending
  • Passing the Domestic Abuse Bill, which was debated in Parliament but stalled when the General Election was called, and establish courts where criminal and family cases involving violence in the home can be dealt with in parallel
  • Stricter curfews and more hours of unpaid work being handed down as punishments
  • Sobriety tags to detect when problem drinkers consume alcohol
  • Reviewing the Gambling Act, considering doubling the penalty for assaulting emergency services staff to two years
  • Giving whole life sentences for child murderers and scrapping automatic release for violent and sex offenders halfway through their sentence
  • Stopping foreign offenders entering the UK and tougher penalties for those who commit crimes while in the country

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