Welsh government sets out principles for a reformed justice system
The Welsh Government’s Advocate General and Social Justice Minister have outlined potential core components of a devolved justice system and warned that the current Westminster-led system is ‘closing the shutters’ on access to justice .
A Welsh Government publication released today highlights the growing development of a distinct Welsh justice policy based on prevention by tackling social challenges and rehabilitation, instead of a more punitive approach.
In ‘Delivering Justice for Wales’, Advocate General Mick Antoniw and Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt say the underlying reasons for pressure on the justice system can only be addressed by adopting a preventive, holistic and inclusive approach.
The publication says the devolution of justice in Wales is ‘inevitable’ and sets out the essential elements of what a devolved justice system would look like. This would include:
- Focus on prevention and rehabilitation.
- Reduce the size of the prison population by seeking alternatives to detention, where available, such as programs to address mental health issues and drug and alcohol abuse treatment support.
- Adopt a rights-based approach to the development of laws and policies and expand the incorporation of internationally agreed rights standards into national legislation.
“Delivering Justice for Wales” also says that in overseeing a devolved justice system, the Welsh Government would place the highest priority on tackling the national crisis of male violence against women and shockingly low levels of convictions. for rape and sexual assault. Later today the Welsh Government will publish an updated strategy on violence against women, domestic violence and sexual violence, outlining what will be done to make Wales the safest place to be. to be a woman.
These components would largely build on what the Welsh Government already provides under current constitutional constraints. This includes additional crime prevention funding of £22m per year for 600 PCSOs; the provision of 13 remote courtrooms across Wales for victims of violence against women, domestic violence and sexual violence; a family alcohol and drug court pilot project in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan; and an investment in the Single Advice Fund, which has helped 81,000 people earn £32m in extra income and manage debts totaling over £10m.
Launching the publication today, the Advocate General said:
“The only lasting way to improve the justice system is to reduce the number of people who come into contact with it. Our publication outlines the innovative ways we are using the powers we have, including early intervention to draw people away from the criminal justice system, and how we would seek to leverage this through a fully decentralized justice system.
“But the policies of successive UK governments since 2010 have firmly shuttered access to justice, threatened fundamental rights and protections and cut vital funding.
“We will continue to use the levers at our disposal to pursue a system-wide, person-centred approach to justice. And we look forward to the judiciary and policing being moved to Wales so that we can speed up this work and deliver a better system for the citizens, communities and businesses of Wales.
The Minister of Social Justice added:
“The clear conclusion of the Independent Justice Commission in 2019 was that justice policies and decisions need to be determined and implemented in Wales so that they align with policy and services distinct and developing social, health, social justice and education in Wales and the growing body of Welsh law. By joining the justice system with the rest of Welsh policy-making, we can find really effective ways to reduce crime.
“Our work on plans for youth and women’s justice, and violence against women, domestic violence and sexual violence, shows what can be done in collaboration to develop services tailored to the Welsh context.
“As things stand, however, any savings we make to courts or prisons – for example through PCSOs’ success in preventing crime – are not being reinvested in Wales. Decentralization must take place so that all this money can be reinvested to meet the urgent needs of Wales.
With regard to future justice reform plans under current constraints, Ministers confirmed that they:
- Considering the case of a Welsh human rights bill
- Work in partnership with the new Law Council of Wales to improve the sustainability of the legal sector in Wales, particularly in rural and post-industrial areas.
- Create a unified, single and structurally independent court system in Wales (as recommended by the Law Commission’s December 2021 report on devolved courts)