Wednesday, 14 August 2019

PM Issues Orders!

We now know the criminal justice system will be part of the election campaign and the MoJ statement on Monday has set the ball rolling:-

Sentencing review to look at most dangerous and prolific offenders

The Ministry of Justice will conduct an urgent review ordered by the Prime Minister, to ensure the public are properly protected from the most dangerous criminals.

The work, which begins immediately, will focus on whether violent and sexual offenders are serving sentences that truly reflect the severity of their crimes.

It will consider whether changes in legislation are needed to lock criminals up for longer – by not letting them out automatically part-way through a sentence. It will also look at how to break the cycle of repeat offending.

It forms part of a government overhaul of the criminal justice system to further protect the public – by cracking down on crime, raising prison standards, rehabilitating offenders and cutting the vicious cycle of re-offending.

The government review team will report back directly to the Prime Minister with recommendations this autumn.

Specifically, the review will look at:
  • Sentencing for the most serious violent and sexual offenders;
  • The rules governing when and how these offenders are released; and
  • Sentencing of the most prolific offenders.
Today (12 August 2019) also sees a further £85 million awarded to the Crown Prosecution Service to build capacity and manage caseloads over the next 2 years.

Justice Secretary, Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP, said:

"Too often the public and victims feel that violent and sexual offenders are being released early and without a proper deterrent to stop their offending. We must ensure that there is confidence in the system, which is why my department will undertake an urgent review of how and when these offenders are released – to better protect the public and end the cycle of reoffending. This work is a priority for the Government and will report back to the Prime Minister with recommendations to ensure punishments properly reflect the severity of their crimes."

In addition, today the Prime Minister and Justice Secretary are meeting leaders from the police, probation and prison sectors to discuss how to cut crime and improve the criminal justice system.

It comes as an extra £2.5 billion investment has been announced to create 10,000 extra prison places, starting with the new Full Sutton prison.

This follows announcements to recruit 20,000 new police officers over the next three years and the Home Secretary’s confirmation that all 43 police forces in England and Wales can use enhanced stop and search powers.


This response from Napo:-

PM orders urgent review of Sentencing Policy

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson’s, call today for an urgent review of prison sentencing policy – which would see 10,000 extra prison places - has been all over the news today. Napo General Secretary, Ian Lawrence, spoke to Sky News’ lunchtime programme about the proposals.

Ian told Sky News that there were already too many people in prison; people who should not be there like those with mental health issues. What was really needed in terms of sentencing policy, he said, was a return to ‘what works’, and proper rehabilitative work from more, skilled, probation officers in the community.

Grayling’s TR reforms were an acknowledged disaster, he told the programme. The part-privatisation of the probation service had failed on all counts and resulted in the government U-turn and the return of ‘offender supervision’ into the National Probation Service. Napo welcomed this and was committed to working with the MoJ to deliver but, he told Sky, the proposed changes were not enough: we need all probation work brought back into under public accountability. He also said that we needed more resources and more skilled probation staff. There were currently over 1,000 vacancies across the country – HMPPS needed to motivate and recruit staff as a matter of urgency and the current, two-tier pay system that was the result of the TR system was not the way.

Was Boris Johnson listening? Ian said he hoped so. Napo had a good working relationship with Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland, and we believe he understands the situation. But, Ian stressed, the way forward is properly resourced supervision in the community, to deliver rehabilitation and to keep communities safe: and this was only possible if probation was in the hands of skilled professional practitioners not private companies interested only in profit.


Here we have what the Secret Barrister thinks, and they're angry! 

Don’t fall for Boris Johnson’s criminal justice con tricks

Starting with the “new money”. Mr Johnson has announced that 20,000 new police officers will be recruited over the next three years. This is vital, certainly, but falls far short of what is required, given that that figure barely replaces the number of officers cut since 2010. Meanwhile, not only is crime increasing, but investigations are becoming ever-more complex, with digital evidence sucking resources and quadrupling the effort that would have been required a decade ago.

There’s £85m for the Crown Prosecution Service, which sounds like a healthy sum, until you realise that it’s a fixed payment over two years, and that the CPS budget for 2018/19 was a quarter of a billion pounds less in real terms than in 2009/10. The CPS has lost a quarter of its staff and a third of its lawyers since 2010. Two tranches of £42.5m will not begin to fix the problems that plague prosecutions up and down the country.

There’s a promise of 10,000 new prison places, when the previous promise of 10,000 places in 2015 fell short by 6,000, and another 9,000 places alone are required simply to address the present, longstanding overcrowding. There is £100m for technology to aid prison security, but no mention at all of the extra prison staff needed to safely manage the new offenders, given that even after a recruitment drive in 2017, numbers are 15 per cent down since 2010. There has been a huge drain of experience since 2010, as the most experienced officers were among the first to go when the government decided to slash prison staff by over a quarter, at a time when the prison population has climbed.

But the problem extends far beyond inadequate promises to redress chronic underfunding. The propaganda accompanying these announcements betrays not only the Prime Minister’s trademark opportunism and dearth of intellectual rigour but the sticky, putrid tar clogging the heart of the Johnson Crime Agenda.

Announcing his plans in a series of weekend puffs in tame newspapers, Boris Johnson declared, “Left wingers will howl. But it’s time to make criminals afraid – not the public.” Declaring his mission to ensure that criminals “get the sentence they deserve,” Johnson continued a theme begun in his Telegraph columns on the campaign trail, when he railed against “early release” from prison and inadequate prison sentences being passed. The solution to our criminal woes, the subtext screams, is to lock up more people for longer.

And let’s make no mistake, punishment is a legitimate and important part of criminal sentencing. It is one of the five purposes of sentencing listed in statute, alongside the reduction of crime (including by deterrence), reform and rehabilitation, protection of the public and making reparations to victims. Few if anybody involved in criminal justice would disagree with the notion that people who commit crime should be punished in a way that reflects their culpability and the harm they have caused, and that for some people, notably the most serious violent offenders, lengthy prison sentences are inevitable.

However, the notion that longer prison sentences by themselves make any of us any safer is a fantasy. The notion in particular that knife crime will be solved if we simply lock up young men for years on end is a hoax. The public may well be protected from that particular individual for the duration of their incarceration, but the idea underpinning this rotten philosophy – that longer sentences have a deterrent effect on crime – has been shown to be bogus. What does act as a deterrent is not severity of sentence, but certainty. The likelihood of being caught and dealt with swiftly, in other words.

But crime reduction and prevention is not achieved solely by deterrence. Rehabilitation is a vital part of protecting the public. This is why, when dealing with complex, multi-causal offending intractably rooted in social and cultural problems, the courts may take the view that more can be done to protect the public by keeping a young man on the cusp of custody out of the prison warehouse estate, and offering focussed intervention in the community. Sending someone to prison usually means ripping them away from all and any stabilising factors they may have. They lose their job, their social housing and their relationship, and exit prison with no support network other than the new friends they’ve made inside. This is why the evidence suggests that reoffending rates are lower when offenders are kept in the community.

But the evidence is of no concern to the Prime Minister. This is why he is forced into infantile ad hominems as a pre-emptive rebuttal against the people who have read and studied the evidence, and might be minded to offer some as a counter to his claims that our system is soft.

We already have the highest incarceration rate in Western Europe. Prison sentences have on average got longer year-on-year. We have more prisoners detained on indefinite and life sentences than all the other countries in the Council of Europe.

The notion that our courts routinely hand out “soft sentences” is simply not true. When we do see “soft justice” stories in the headlines, they will either be an aberration, usually corrected on appeal, or they will be the product of inaccurate or dishonest reporting, removing context or omitting facts.

Which brings us to Johnson’s public statements. Because at the centre of his musings on criminal justice is a rich stuffing of bullshit. He has lied and lied and lied. He lied when he claimed that “a convicted rapist out on early release” had raped again (the man in question was neither a convicted rapist nor out on early release). He lied when he suggested that the notion of allowing some prisoners to be released on temporary licence was “criminally stupid” (the government’s own evidence shows that reintegrating prisoners into the community in this way cuts reoffending). When he told the Mail this weekend that there are “thousands of “super prolifics” – criminals with more than 50 convictions to their name – who are being spared jail altogether”, he did not tell you that one of the reasons they were spared jail might be that they were being sentenced for non-imprisonable offences. He is lying to you when he tells you that the solution to crime is More Police, More Prisons.

He is lying so that he can turn the volume up to 11 on his remix of “Prison Works” to ensure the oldies at the back of the conference hall can hear in the run-up to the inevitable autumn general election.

And while Mr Johnson is lying to you, the rest of the criminal justice system rots.

Courts are being closed down and sold off all over the country. Half of all magistrates’ courts have been closed, meaning that defendants, victims and witnesses are forced to travel for hours on ineffective public transport to their “local” court.

Of those courts remaining standing, many are unfit for purpose. Decaying, crumbling buildings with no working lifts, holes in the roofs, sewage leaking into public areas, no air conditioning in summer and no heating in winter. In some, the public cannot even get a glass of water.

Of the courts that remain unsold, all are now run at artificially low capacity due to Ministry of Justice restrictions on “court sitting days”. We have, in many large city Crown Courts, the farce of full-time, salaried judges being forced to sit at home taking “reading days” – their perfectly serviceable courtrooms sitting locked and empty – while trials are fixed for Summer 2020 due to an alleged “lack of court time”.

We still have the abominable system of “floating trials” and “warned lists” – where defendants, witnesses and lawyers are expected to give up days or weeks of their lives just sitting around at court on the off-chance that a courtroom suddenly becomes free to take their trial. When, inevitably, no courtroom becomes free (because the MoJ won’t pay for the sitting day, ibid), their case is adjourned for months, and the cycle begins again.

The one thing that does act as a deterrent to criminals – certainty – is being eroded by ensuring that justice is doled out literally years after the event, because the government will not pay for the courts to process cases clogging the pipeline.

Meanwhile legal aid is being stripped away from citizens, forcing them to self-represent in cases in which their liberty is on the line.

This is why I am angry. Not because I’m a “lefty” inherently resistant to Boris Johnson’s white hot public service reforms. I’m angry because as a prosecutor I am still having to sit down with crying witnesses week after week and explain that their torment is being prolonged for another six months because the government refuses to pay to keep courtrooms open. I’m angry because the Innocence Tax – the policy that forces the wrongly accused to pay privately for their legal representation and then denies them their costs, bankrupting them, when they are acquitted – is not even in the political peripheral vision. I’m angry because our Prime Minister is a man who looks at the record rates of death, violence, suicide, overcrowding and self-harm in our prisons and whose first question is, “How do we get more people in there?” I’m angry because the notion that you “crack down on crime” by chucking a few more police officers onto the streets and shoving more and more people into our death-riven prisons is a con. It is a con to victims of crime, and it is a con to you, the public. I’m angry because we have the indignity of a dishonest, cowardly and exploitative Prime Minister fiddling with his Party’s g-spot while the criminal justice system burns.

Don’t fall for his con trick.

Secret Barrister


  1. I wonder just what the Chancellor is thinking about Boris's spending pledges?
    I think it sad however, with all the money being promised, there's only £22m being spent on the governments homelessness reduction act. Nationally, that's a very thin spread given the size of the problem, and its a growing problem.
    Yesterday's Guardian reported on the number of people leaving custody homeless and the link between being released homeless and high reoffending rates. Its a lengthy read, but it does suggest that more needs to be done on the route out of the CJS.


    1. Don't talk rubbish getafix. Do you actually think that puppet chancellor chancer is actually intelligent enough to think.

    2. Can we dispense with the insults please Anon 10:53

    3. Hope your not defending the Tories there and clearly we all agree with Getafix assessments .


    1. Lord Marks: If Boris Johnson wants to stop people reoffending, he needs to address the causes of crime

      Boris Johnson is right about the need to stop people reoffending when they leave prison. But he’s completely wrong about how to achieve it.

      Locking up more and more people for longer and longer sentences isn’t the answer. We know this because Conservative and Labour ministers have been trying it for 25 years. Wanting to appear tough on crime has led successive governments to legislate for and encourage longer and longer prison sentences, without any evidence that they deter people from committing crimes or help to improve public safety.

      The result? Our prison population has almost doubled since 1993, and the UK now has more people in prison than any other country in Western Europe. The majority of prisons are over capacity – some by more than 50%. HMP Wandsworth, for example, has room for 935 people but currently holds more than 1,400.

      This overcrowding has stoked the crisis engulfing our prisons. Riots, drug use, suicide and extreme violence have all become far too common. More than 300 people die in prison every year, and the past five years have all seen the highest rates of prison deaths since records began in 1978. Assaults, assaults on staff and self-harm incidents are all at record-high levels as well.

      Overcrowding stops prisons from serving their central purpose: rehabilitating prisoners so they can lead lives free from crime on release. There aren’t enough prison officers to cope, so prisoners spend far too much time locked in their cells and far too little in purposeful activity such as work, education and training.

      A quarter of prisoners are locked in their cells for more than 22 hours a day, their chances of being successfully rehabilitated ebbing away with every passing minute. It’s little wonder, then, that 48% of people who leave prison are convicted of at least one new offence within a year.

      The solution is not to increase the prison population even further. Instead of reviewing sentences to make them longer, Boris Johnson should commission a review to reverse the decades of sentence inflation that have brought us to this crisis – something that the Liberal Democrats have been advocating for years.

      He should also listen to the Liberal Democrats and others – including the recently departed Conservative Lord Chancellor David Gauke– and end the pointless short prison sentences that don’t work to cut crime.

      Most prisoners receive sentences of less than a year, even though the Ministry of Justice’s own analysis shows that these people would be less likely to reoffend if they served their sentences in the community instead. Johnson’s Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland, understood this when he was the Prisons Minister; it’s a shame he hasn’t been able to convince the Prime Minister of it since joining his Cabinet. The Liberal Democrats have long been calling for a presumption against short prison sentences and an increase in the use of tough non-custodial punishments in their place.

      If we reduce the number of prisoners, we can make our penal system far more effective at preventing crime. We can take the money wasted housing people who don’t need to be there – more than £100 per person per day – and spend it on the things that actually stop reoffending: education and training, healthcare, treatment for addiction, and suitable, stable housing after release. My Liberal Democrat colleague Lord German and I have set out proposals to do just that in our new policy paper ‘Turning Lives Around’.

      Only when we end overcrowding, invest in these services and transform prisons into places of rehabilitation can we break the cycle of reoffending that creates hundreds of new victims every day. Boris Johnson’s ‘tough on crime’ nonsense, which flies in the face of all the evidence and merely panders to populist prejudice, would only take us further from that goal.

      Lord Marks is the Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson in the House of Lords.


  3. We are fiddling while Rome burns, The physical and moral fabric of our country is being shredded, and we have a major recession on the starting blocks and a far right insurgence, a sadly familiar meme. I am torn between being an activist on my teeny weeny agenda of criminal justice and probation, and just throwing in the towel and digging up my garden to grow enough food to live on

    1. Could be worse, Jeremy Corbyn as caretaker of the thank-you.
      I think I will join you in the garden.

    2. I’d welcome Jeremy Corbyn as PM

  4. Meanwhile... do not forget how the political class continue to feather their own nests while pissing in yours:


    1. Criminals will no longer have to begin unpaid work within seven days of being given a community sentence under government plans that have been criticised as “delaying justice”.

      Ministers have been accused of sending the wrong message to offenders with proposals to delay work for up to a month after sentencing.

      Criminal justice experts said that the plan threatened to undermine confidence in the most visible element of non-custodial punishments as justice needed to be seen to be done quickly.

      Others believed that victims would be dismayed. Harry Fletcher, director the Victims’ Rights Campaign, said: “This development will not instil confidence in victims. They will feel justice has been delayed and therefore denied.

      “The original idea was that an offender would start unpaid work within days of the sentence, to give confidence to victims that the offender was being punished.”

      Unpaid work is the most common requirement attached to community sentences, obliging offenders to work for between 40 hours and 300 hours. Probation staff find placements that meet the needs of the criminal as well as the community, which can include erasing graffiti, painting community halls, tidying church grounds, clearing ditches or working in charity shops.

      Private community rehabilitation companies are at present expected to arrange for offenders to be on their first work placement within seven days of sentencing, but the justice ministry has proposed to allow up to a month from 2021 after the re-nationalisation of the probation service.

      Probation inspectors said in a recent report that the evidence suggested that the rehabilitative effect of unpaid work was improved if work started promptly.

      A spokesman for the justice ministry said: “This change will allow probation officers more time to ensure the best possible match between offenders and the community work they are doing.”

      The right-wing privatisation machine continues to change the rules for the benefit of profiteers, despite evidence to the contrary.

      And Napo still insist they have a positive working relationship with the SoS.


    C4's Krish Guru-Murthy gets Edward Argar to admit Probation funding is lower than it was in 2010.

    1. Justice minister Edward Argar has been forced to concede in a live TV interview that despite Boris Johnson‘s latest spending pledge for more money for prisons, the amount of funding for probation is still lower than 2010 levels.

      The Government said it will plough £100m into the prison system as part of spending pledges on law and order schemes, with the money going towards security measures.

      The promise is one of a raft of measures announced this week, including 10,000 extra prisons, a review into sentencing and an increase in stop and search, which have been viewed as an attempt to bolster Mr Johnson’s “law and order” credentials ahead of a possible general election.

      Speaking to Channel 4 News on Tuesday, Mr Argar said the Government is also investing in probation services to try and rehabilitate offenders after spending time in prison.

      But when Mr Guru-Murthy asked the minister whether funding for the probation service be as high as it was in 2010, the minister said that as the Government had scrapped a botched attempt at privatising the probation system (CRC), a like for like comparison was not applicable.

      Mr Argar said: “We have changed the model we’re ending the CRC contracts, This is not just a matter of funding, this is about the model and what works.”

      But the presenter pressed on, saying: “I’m asking you about funding as you mentioned extra resources.”

      As the minister argued that “there is extra resource going in to manage” the transition, Mr Guru-Murthy asked: “Will it be at 2010 levels or will it be below 2010 levels?”

      Theresa May’s government scrapped an attempt to privatise probation services in May this year and brought them back under the auspices of the National Probation Service, with extra funding for it to deliver services.

      Mr Argar said: “We’re investing what we think is needed to make this new model work. It is a different model.”

      But the presenter would not let the point drop asking: “Is that below 2010 levels?”

      The minister said: “The comparison is not an effective one, because we’re changing the nature of what we’re delivering, and we’re changing the nature of the model.

      “It’s lower isn’t it?” the presenter asked.

      The minister replied: “It’s not just about money, we continue to invest in rehabilitation. If you’re trying to compare like with like I don’t think you can do that. In terms of the probation and prisons and overall…”

      Pushing the point, Mr Guru-Murthy cut in, and said: “I accept the system has changed since 2010. I’m just asking you about the resources that are going into the system will there be more, less, or the same resource going into probation?”

      Mr Argar responded: “So in 2010, you’ll be well aware we faced a very challenging financial situation inherited from the previous government.”

      “We made some very tough decisions around that but they were necessary. So we will be putting money back in but there is still work to do around that.”

      The host pushed the minister one more time on whether probation spending will “still be less” than under the previous Labour Government.

      Mr Angar conceded: “We are investing heavily in the system but we are not back to where we were in 2010 yet.”

      “Thank you. We got there in the end,” the presenter told him.