No doubt wishing to try and further his political career, I notice that Justice Minister Chris Grayling has been one of the first to agree further spending cuts in his department with the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne. A clue as to how these extra cuts are to be achieved featured on the front page of The Times yesterday 'Courts to be privatised in radical justice shake-up'.
According to a post on the Scriptonite Daily website, Grayling hinted at changes when he told Parliament in March:-
“The courts and tribunals are at the centre of our justice system, relied on by the public to enforce their rights and uphold the rule of law. As in other areas, we need to look at the way we deliver our services to provide a more efficient service that delivers access to justice quickly and effectively, while delivering value for money for the taxpayer. At the same time, we must preserve the independence of the judiciary, which lies at the heart of our constitutional arrangements.”
According to the Times article:-
“Courts in England and Wales are facing wholesale privatisation under revolutionary plans that would end the system that has existed since Magna Carta. The idea would establish the courts service as a commercial enterprise, paying its way and freed from Treasury control, with court buildings and thousands of staff put in the hands of private companies. It would save the Ministry of Justice £1 billion a year.”
Of course this could be a bit of 'kite-flying' just designed to judge the reaction and distract us from other things going on, but if it has any traction it will of course involve the usual suspects like G4S and Serco. They are rapidly becoming a 'one stop shop' in terms of the criminal justice system and could end up making money at every stage from initial arrest and investigation, right through court, legal representation, bail, tagging, transport, custody to probation supervision. Quite a neat business empire eh?
The Scriptonite Daily article goes on to provide a very useful and enlightening resume of just how far G4S's tentacles have spread already in our criminal justice system. The campaign to stop them getting their hand on probation continues and the No10 petition can be found here.
Meanwhile the legal profession continues to turn the heat up on Chris Grayling with 90 QC's apparently putting their names to a letter in the Daily Telegraph warning that the restrictions to legal aid "will seriously undermine the rule of law". The relevant No10 petition can be found here and has already attracted a very respectable 64,561 signatures.