This week the parties’ manifestos came out. What do they tell us about the state of criminal justice policy in Britain today?

Let’s start with the areas where there appears to be broad consensus. All the major parties now prioritise doing more to reduce violence against women and girls, including domestic abuse. Both the Conservatives and Labour commit to the establishment of a commissioner to tackle violence against women and girls while the Lib Dems pledge to fund a national rape helpline. All three parties offer a raft of measures to help victims of crime, with the Conservatives and Labour repeating their 2015 promise to introduce a specific law for victims. The Lib Dems also promise legislation for a single point of contact and other rights.

Here the consensus ends, with each party offering different perspectives on criminal justice reform.

Whilst Theresa May has won headlines for redefining the Conservatives’ approach to economic and social reform, on policing and justice she is, unsurprisingly keen to continue the direction of travel she set as Home Secretary. This involves expanding the role of Police and Crime Commissioners, some more restructuring with the Serious Fraud Office disappearing into the National Crime Agency and a new Police Infrastructure Force, tougher inspection for prisons and opening up police recruitment.

Beyond the headline pledge of 10,000 extra police officers and devolving policing to Wales, Labour’s offer can be broken down into three broad categories: unpicking recent Conservative reforms, for example reversing police and fire service mergers and changes to legal aid; restricting or removing the role of the private sector from criminal justice, for example in prisons and child protection; and specific measures affecting particular groups, for example introducing tougher sentences for animal cruelty and some forms of hate crime.

Lib Dem proposals reflect strongly their support for civil liberties and opposition to Brexit. All police would be equipped with body cameras while the sale of cannabis and sex would be decriminalised: the Prevent programme would be scrapped and state surveillance curtailed. The Lib Dems would replace PCCs (the party has none itself) with ‘Police Boards drawn from local councillors’ (basically police authorities) and further devolution would be on demand with no automatic preference for mayors.

Two more things are worth noting. First, the parties appear to broadly agree about the need to continue scaling back stop and search. This is perhaps surprising, given the recent upsurge in knife crime. Whilst the evidence around its effectiveness is disputed, many officers (not to mention the press and members of the public) continue to believe that more stop and search is what’s needed.

Second, whilst it is welcome to see the Conservatives’ commitment to a new national community sentences framework – Crest recently published a report on this very subject – there is no mention of reviving Liz Truss’ prison and courts bill (withdrawn in the last legislative session) or the MoJ’s review into the future of probation. Whether or not that suggests a broader change in direction at MoJ remains to be seen.

What are the implications of all this for those of us working to improve criminal justice policy, communication and practice? Broadly, to expect continuity rather than big change. In practice, that is likely to mean further devolution over criminal justice powers and budgets to PCCs and directly-elected mayors; a continuing need to manage rising demand alongside shrinking budgets (no additional revenue is being promised, beyond Labour’s policing pledge); and further attempts to open up the policing and prison workforces.

Below we have summarised the pledges that have been made in the Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem manifestos, and how they relate to different aspects of crime and justice:

 

CONSERVATIVES LABOUR LIB DEMS
Criminal justice devolution
  • Support metro-Mayors
  • Devolve powers and budgets over criminal justice to PCCs
  • New Minister for England
  • Restore Regional Offices
  • Devolution of policing to the Welsh Assembly
  • ‘Devolution on demand’ – support devolution to councils or groups of councils working together
  • No automatic preference for Mayors
PCCs
  • Widen the role of PCCs – with more powers over criminal justice and a role on Health/ Wellbeing Boards
  • Move voting to FPTP system
  • Reverse reforms to merge Police/fire
  • Replace PCCs with Police Boards made up of local councillors
Policing
  • National Infrastructure Police (merging British Transport Police, Civil Nuclear Constabulary and Ministry of Defence Police)
  • Expand direct entry, including for Chief Constables
  • Limit stop and search – ensuring it is targeted
  • Subsume the Serious Fraud Office within the National Crime Agency
  • 10,000 extra police in communities
  • Devolve policing to Wales
  • Review all training and equipment contracts with oppressive regimes
  • Additional £300m a year to local police forces to increase community policing
  • End 1% cap on police pay rises
  • Require all frontline officers to wear body cameras on duty
  • Resource BAME staff associations to increase ethnic diversity and BAME participation in the police
  • Use data more effectively to reduce crime and improve policing, potential mandatory reporting of fraud losses by individual credit and debit card providers
  • Retain the European Arrest Warrant, membership of Europol and access to EU information databases
Prisons
  • £1bn capital expenditure to upgrade prisons and create 10,000 more places
  • Strengthen the inspection process
  • Reform entry requirements, training and management of prison officer staff
  • Recruit 3,000 extra new prison staff and review professional training and development
  • Pay rise for prison staff
  • No new private prisons and no public prisons will be privatised
  • Publish annual reports on prisoner-staff ratios
  • Will insist on personal rehabilitation plans for all prisoners
  • Transform prisons into places of rehabilitation, treatment and education
  • Adopt holistic approach to prisoners with multiple problems
Probation
  • Review role of Community Rehabilitation Companies
Sentencing
  • New national community sentencing framework
  • Ensure every foreign offender subject to a deportation order has satellite tagging
  • Increase the maximum sentence for those convicted of animal cruelty
  • Introduce presumption against short prison sentences and increase use of non-custodial punishments
  • Promote Community Justice Panels and restorative justice
  • End imprisonment for possession of illegal drugs for personal use, replacing with health-based treatment and education or civil penalties
Courts
  • Push ahead with courts modernisation
  • Review the judicial appointments process
  • Re-establish early advice entitlements in the Family Courts
  • Reintroduce funding for the preparation of judicial review cases
  • Review the legal aid means tests
  • “Consider the reinstatement of other legal aid entitlements after receiving the final recommendations of the Access to Justice Commission led by Lord Bach”
  • Introduce a no-fault divorce procedure
  • Consult on establishing an environmental tribunal
  • Introduce a ratio to establish the maximum difference between actual costs and charges levied by courts
  • Extend the use of technology in court service
  • Reverse increases in court and tribunal fees
  • Continue to modernise and simplify court procedures
  • ‘Protect’ system of judicial review from ‘further attacks’
Cyber
  • Continue with existing cyber security strategy
  • Pressure on internet companies to restrict violent imagery/ hate speech/ restrict terrorist communication
  • Provide police with the equipment and people they need to effectively police the growing threat of cybercrime
  • Cyber security to form an integral part of defence and security strategy
  • Introduce a cyber-security charter for companies working with the MoD
  • Invest in security and intelligence services to counter cyberattacks and recognise the expansion of warfare into the cybersphere
Drugs/alcohol
  • Strategy for the children of alcoholics based on recommendations drawn up by independent experts
  • Implement a ‘tobacco control plan’
  • Legalise cannabis and introduce a regulated market
  • Prioritise catching and prosecuting those who manufacture, import, or deal in illegal drugs
  • Repeal the Psychoactive Substances Act
  • Move the departmental lead on drugs policy to the Department of Health
  • Introduce minimum unit pricing for alcohol, subject to the final outcome of the legal challenge in Scotland
Victims
  • Victims Law, setting out minimum entitlements of service
  • Ensure child victims and victims of sexual violence can be cross-examined before trial
  • Publicly funded advocates to be given specialist training in handling victims before taking on serious sexual offence cases
  • Introduce an independent public advocate, who will act for bereaved families after a public disaster and in public inquiries
  • Extend Unduly Lenient Sentence Scheme to a wider range of sentences can be challenged
  • Review the application of exploitation in the Modern Slavery Act to strengthen our ability to stop exploitation
  • Ensure appropriate support is provided to victims of crime
  • Introduce legislation for minimum standard entitlements to service from criminal justice agencies
  • Introduce a Victims’ Bill of Rights to create a single point of contact for victims, increase access to information about cases, and give victims the right to request restorative justice rather than a prison sentence.
  • Training for police and prosecutors in identifying and supporting victims of modern slavery
Violence against women and girls
  • New domestic violence and abuse bill to consolidate laws, create a new aggravated offence if behaviour directed at a child and enshrine definition of domestic violence in law
  • Create a Domestic Violence and Abuse Commissioner
  • Review funding of refuges
  • Automatic rights to tenancy for victims of domestic abuse fleeing partners
  • Sex and relationships education in primary and secondary schools
  • Create a Violence Against Women Commissioner
  • Will establish a national refuge fund
  • “Ensure stability of rape crisis centre”
  • Ban the use of community resolutions as a response to domestic violence
  • “Legislate to prohibit the cross examination of victims of domestic violence by their abuser in certain circumstances”
  • “Remove requirement for victims of domestic abuse to pay Doctors for certification of injuries”
  • Compulsory sex and relationships education
  • Provide government funding for a national rape crisis helpline
  • Review the investigation, prosecution, procedures and rules of evidence in cases of sexual and domestic violence
Hate crime
  • Continue with existing plans
  • Enhance powers of Human Rights Commission
  • Will make hate crimes against LGBT an aggravated offence
  • Campaign to reduce intolerance, including anti-Semitism, and hate crimes
Sex work
  • Decriminalise the sale and purchase of sex, and the management of sex work
Mental Health in the CJS
  • Improve the co-ordination of mental health services with other local services, including police forces and drug and alcohol rehabilitation services.
  • Review the provision of mental health services in prisons
  • Roll out Liaison and Diversion programme nationally, to help identify vulnerable people when they first come into contact with the CJS
  • End the use of police cells for people facing a mental health crisis.
Women in the CJS
  • Dedicated community sentencing provision for women offenders
  • Establish a Women’s Justice Board to meet needs of women offenders
Youth justice
  • Embed restorative justice across all YOIs
  • Strengthen mandatory reporting, and guaranteeing allegations will be reported and action taken to make children safe
  • Extend the responsibility of the YJB to all offenders under 21, giving it the power to commission mental health services.
Rule of law/justice
  • Remain signatories to the European Convention for Human Rights
  • Remain signatories to the European Convention for Human Rights
  • Ensure the UK retains international arrangements under the EU Brussels I and Brussels II Regulation and the Hague Child Abduction Convention to maintain international law enforcement and judicial co-operation
  • Conduct an urgent and comprehensive review of the effects of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act on access to justice
  • Secure further funding for criminal legal aid from sources other than the taxpayer
Terrorism and violent extremism
  • Continue with existing counter-terrorism strategy
  • New Commission for Countering Extremism
  • Implement a new integration strategy (core recommendation of Casey review)
  • Review the Prevent strategy and programme
  • Reintroduce effective judicial oversight of counterterrorism operations
  • Continue cross-border co-operation between security forces across Europe.
  • Permit intercepts where justified and permit surveillance of those suspected of serious crime and terrorism
  • Scrap Prevent strategy and replace it with a scheme that prioritises community engagement and supports communities to develop own approaches to tackle violent extremism
  • Roll back state surveillance powers
  • Oppose Conservative attempts to ‘undermine encryption’
  • Notify innocent people who have been placed under targeted surveillance (without jeopardising ongoing investigations)
Inquiries
  • Public inquiry into contaminated blood
  • Public inquiry into medicines, including Valproate, medical devices and medical products licensing and regulation
  • Public inquiry into Britain’s military role in the 1984 raid on the Golden Temple in Amritsar
  • Public inquiry into Orgreave
  • Public inquiry into blacklisting
  • Release all papers relating to the Shrewsbury 24 trials and the 37 Cammell Laird shipyard workers
Harvey Redgrave

Harvey Redgrave

Managing Director

Harvey Redgrave is Managing Director at Crest Advisory. Previously, Harvey worked as a senior policy advisor at the Labour Party and was a deputy director at the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit.

Jon Clements

Jon Clements

Director of Development

Jon Clements is Director of Development at Crest Advisory, and formerly a crime reporter for ITV News and the Daily Mirror.

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