So-called ‘problem-solving’ courts provide individualised assessments of offenders, taking into account personal circumstances that may result in repeat offending and seeking to reach agreement with individuals in a non-confrontational way. Such courts rely on having a consistent relationship between the judge and the offender and often adopt a multi-disciplinary approach, bringing together several agencies at one site.
In 2016, the previous Minister for Justice promised to implement reforms to ensure these courts worked more effectively following a Justice Committee review. I asked the current Minister where we are now, a good three years on, in implementing these changes.
Sadly, it seems the Government has taken its eye off the ball as the Minister could not provide any evidence as to where the Department has got to. She has promised to write to the Committee and I will be looking carefully at her response.
This week’s Justice Committee gave MPs the chance to question the Attorney General. I focused my questions on his role on providing legal advice to the UK Government on their Brexit proposals.
You may remember that before Christmas the Government was found in contempt of Parliament for the first time ever. This was due to the fact that the Attorney General, the legal adviser for the UK Government, refused to release his advice after Parliament had voted for him to do so.
I wanted the Attorney General to outline why he refused to give the legal advice to Parliament and how he will approach the issue in the future.
This was a detailed discussion, but one that is needed. We must make sure that Parliament is respected by Government.
This week’s Justice Committee focused on the enforcement of debt. At the beginning of the session we were able to cross-examine the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and they told us some valuable information about the number of complaints against bailiffs.
The Civil Enforcement Association represent bailiffs so I questioned them on why the number of complaints against their members has increased.
Committees give MPs a chance to scrutinise, in-depth, the UK Government’s policies away from the more political arena of the House of Commons chamber. This week’s Justice Committee was a perfect example of this.
We had officials from HM Prisons and Probation and the Ministry of Justice in front of us which gave us the opportunity to delve deep into the policies they were enacting on behalf of the UK Government. I wanted to know what action was being done to measure prison standards. It was disappointing to hear that currently officials do not believe that the estate is good.