Headlines: February 27th, 2001

The Government has unveiled its vision for a modernised criminal justice system. The strategy addresses the issues of improving detection, reducing the gap between the number of crimes and the number of convictions, deterring re-offending and supporting victims and witnesses. Every part of the existing criminal justice system will be subject to reform. The strategy, which includes initiatives in progress as well as new measures, also embraces other departments and agencies including the Social Exclusion Unit.Proposals to improve police performance include enhancing detective capability, possibly drawing on outside experience from the public or private sector. There are also plans for a more structured career management process, including the development of a new Leadership Development Board. It is thought that this could end the long tradition of all new entrants serving as constables, before moving to accelerated promotion. Ending this tradition and introducing private sector expertise is likely to prove extremely controversial.

In a move to increase the conviction rate, funding for the Crown Prosecution Service will be increased by 23 per cent in 2001/02. There will also be a specialist cadre of prosecutors to deal with organised and serious crime. A new consolidated criminal code will be introduced to improve public confidence and shorten and simplify trials.

Improved support for victims and witnesses will include consultation on a new Victim’s Charter, which may establish a Victims’ Ombudsman to champion victims’ interests; anda possible ‘Victim’s Fund’ to ensure victims are more swiftly compensated. The Crown Prosecution Service will be responsible for keeping victims informed about the progress of cases. There will be court familiarisation visits and improved court waiting facilities for prosecution witnesses.

The Police Federation has called for a ‘Royal Commission On Policing’ because of the changes that have taken place since the last Royal Commission forty years ago. They argue that the futures of their members should not be decided by politicians.

This strategy now completes the current updates in the Government’s public services modernization plans and complements the five year education strategy set out in the Green Paper ‘Schools: Building on Success’ published earlier this month and the ten year NHS Plan published last year.

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