The Ministry of Justice has faced some of the biggest cuts to its budget under the current UK Government and previous Coalition Government. To meet these cuts, amongst other things, they decided to close a large number of local courts.
I have always campaigned against court closures because justice must be handed out in our communities. We should not be expected to travel huge distances to ensure that those who have done wrong face the law.
At the Justice Committee meeting this week we had a number of witnesses before us from organisations like the Magistrates Association, the Criminal Bar Association and the Criminal Law Committee of Birmingham Law Society. These are people with great experience of what court closures mean.
During my questioning I wanted to know if they have been consulted by the UK Government following the closures. As you can see the response is damning. Ignoring experts ensures that policy is bungled and mistakes are made. The Ministry of Justice must sit up and listen to the Select Committee evidence and take action to ensure access to courts and law is not further undermined.
The calamity that is Chris Grayling MP – the current Transport Secretary who is best known for signing a contract with a ferry company who has never operated a ferry service and copied and pasted their terms and conditions from a takeaway site – first struck in the Ministry of Justice when he part-privatised probation services.
The cost of this bungle? £173,000,000. I have long argued that these changes would not work and that everything needed to be put back under the control of the UK Government. It was ridiculous to delineate offenders by risk as we all know that people change and someone who is technically low risk can become high risk to the community.
But it is not just me who said that this reform has failed. Her Majesty’s Inspector of Probation, the National Audit Office and the cross-party Justice Select Committee have all stated that this was a failed policy.
As it would happen, the day after Labour secured an Opposition Day Debate on the privatised probation companies and called for them to be nationalised once more the UK Government announced that they would do just that. Common sense has prevailed, but not after Chris Grayling MP cost us all £173million.
My report into prison education in Wales has been published today (21 March 2019) and makes key recommendations on how outcomes can be improved for offenders in Wales.
I was requested by the former Minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning, Baroness Eluned Morgan AM, to undertake a review in August 2018 into prison education in Wales.
The recommendations contained within the report are predominantly directed at the Welsh Government and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), but other public-sector bodies and privately-run prisons can take note of these recommendations to improve education within our prisons.
The report made recommendations on the following topics:
• Accountability Structures;
• Inclusivity with Stakeholders;
• Social Clauses: The Welsh Government’s Employment Power
• Through the Gate Services;
• Female Offender Education; and
• Digital Infrastructure. Read more “Prison Education in Wales report”
Yet another company that provides services to the UK Government has collapsed. Interserve handles contracts for the Ministry of Justice for probation services.
Following the damning National Audit Office (NAO) report into the cost of this privatisation of probation I wanted to know what further impact this collapse would have.