New frontiers of criminal justice: Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP speech transcript


CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As most of you in this room will know, for me, the last two years has been about delivering the Transforming Rehabilitation Programme.

As many of you in this room may already have heard from me before, I firmly believe that it is only by changing the way we do things through the Transforming Rehabilitation Programme that we stand a chance of making a dent in reoffending.

All of you in this room will be all too familiar with the case for change … with the fact that we spend £3 billion a year on prisons, and a further billion on delivering sentences in the community.

All of you know about the depressing reality that every year there are tens of thousands of victims of crime … victims at the hands of those who have offended, once, twice or even many times before.

You also know about those reoffending rates that have barely changed in a decade.  Many of you will have worked on trying to bring that rate down from where it hovers at about 60 per cent – for those released from sentences of less than a year.

Well, like you, I wanted to change that.

I wasn’t prepared just to settle for the status quo – throwing more money at a problem that was going to suddenly disappear.  And it was simply an unavoidable truth, that against a backdrop of the most severe financial circumstances of modern times, we weren’t just going to have to do things a little differently.  We were going to have to change the paradigm and do them smarter.

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When I first became Justice Secretary back in 2012, I made the way we deal with offenders my absolute priority. From day one I was clear what we needed to do – and I was clear too on the scale of that challenge.

Any minister will tell you that any reform will have its naysayers.  And that there will be bumps along the way.  If it was all so easy, the chances are someone would already have tried it.  Perhaps some of you even in this room were sceptical about whether it was possible.

But deliver is what my Department has done.

We changed the law so that offenders released from short sentences must have a year’s mandatory supervision.

We moved to the new probation structures in June last year.  From that point, the National Probation Service for the most serious offenders and the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies were live.

In December, we signed contracts with the new owners of the CRCs.  And transfer of ownership of all the CRCs took place last month.

It is now a reality that the market has been opened up to a diverse range of providers, so that we can get the very best out of the public, voluntary and private sectors, at a local as well as national level.

All of the new owners of the CRCs have experience working with offenders or across the Criminal Justice System.  As well as the lead providers, almost 1000 organisations have registered to play a part in the wider supply chain – including more than 700 listed as VCSE organisations.

In the new world, the CRCs now have the freedom from bureaucracy, and the flexibility to do what works.  We will pay them only when they deliver – creating both the immediate and long-term incentive to keep innovating to find real reductions in reoffending.

Life in that new world also now means that for the first time, we have proper through the gate provision, meaning continuity from custody into the community.  I want to make sure that we catch more of those offenders who ended up falling through the cracks all over again … because they didn’t have anywhere to go … because they didn’t know how to find a job … because they just didn’t have a clue about how to start rebuilding their lives.

You and I both know that so often it is these building blocks which are absolutely crucial to keeping someone out of a life of crime.  The normality for us of getting up everyday, putting on a shirt and tie, going to work … for so many ex-offenders, that simply has no reference point.  Making sure that there is some sort of structure on the outside, finding them a place to live, getting them to reconnect with family members – all this is absolutely vital and at the heart of the resettlement work that the CRCs deliver.

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The Ministry of Justice is leading the way in implementing the Payment by Results I mentioned earlier.  We must make sure we learn from this approach and explore the extent to which it could be used to achieve positive outcomes in other areas of public service provision.

We require providers to be responsive to changing demands, to priorities at local and national levels, to new legislation and the wider commissioning context.  Our approach to contract management is not to be overly-prescriptive or to restrict providers’ ability to innovate.

In return, we expect to see new and innovative responses from the new providers.  Those responses must address some of the causes of crime, with targeted support to offenders to tackle addiction, lack of housing or employment and skills, including increased mentoring support.

Linked to this, there is great potential to build new and effective partnerships at local level, with CRCs working with other providers such as health, education, welfare, and many more, to support early intervention with offenders and prevent future offending.

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These Transforming Rehabilitation reforms are an important part of a programme of change across the whole justice system, making it ready to meet the challenges of the future.

As well as a system geared towards breaking that cycle of reoffending, we need one that has properly arrived in the 21st Century … a system that is high tech, and leverages all the efficiencies that technology can afford us.

A few weeks ago, the Global Law Summit, attended by more than 2000 delegates from around the world, made it abundantly clear where our legal system sits on a global stage.

The Summit was held in part to mark the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta- one of the UK’s greatest exports.  It has inspired and formed the basis of so many legal systems.  It is cited and invoked whenever and wherever basic freedoms come under threat.

That great legal tradition continues.  The United Kingdom is respected throughout the world for the strength of its legal system.  For the skills, impartiality, fairness and knowledge of its judiciary.  And for its consistency and stability as a legal jurisdiction.

We have to make sure that we have a modern courts system to underpin all that.

The UK will not remain the jurisdiction of choice by relying on its history alone.  We must offer those who use our justice system slick and efficient processes as well as world class facilities, equipped for the future.

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Again, at the outset, it was very clear to me that the lack of significant investment in the technology and the buildings within the courts estate, had left HM Courts and Tribunals service straining to keep up with the expectations of modern society.

The whole system was creaking with inefficiencies, bringing with them a significant financial burden borne by the Ministry of Justice – and ultimately the tax payer.

After months and months of work, an investment package totalling £713 million was secured from the Treasury.  This money will be used to significantly and dramatically modernising  the court estate, and the IT infrastructure within it.

On completion, the reform is expected to realise annual savings well in excess of £100 million.

This is a very considerable achievement, and should be viewed as one of the most important opportunities for effective reform for very many years.

It is an opportunity that will deliver better justice, and better access to justice … It will secure us a system that is less intimidating to witnesses, victims and families.  A system where both sides in the case and the judiciary have all the right information at their fingertips, every time.

Through the introduction of modern technology, we will do things in a more efficient way, in an estate that has buildings that are fit for purpose.

We’ve already made some considerable headway.

The Courts & Tribunals Service has successfully increased the use of video technology. The number of Prison to Court Video Links went from around 37, 000 in 2013 hearings to well over 54,000 hearings in 2014.  As a result of that, the number of prisoner movements was considerably reduced – producing real savings to the taxpayer pocket.

We’ve also been testing alternative video solutions in the Courts around internet based video services.  This provides more opportunities for civilian and police witnesses to give evidence via video links, including from abroad. Last September for example arrangements were made for a video link to an internet-enabled conference room in Basra for use by the Iraqi Judicial Investigation.

HMCTs is working with partner agencies and the judiciary to deliver what is in essence a digital court service.

The technology is being rolled out to enable Magistrates to access case information and sentencing guidelines without the need for paper files. Laptops and tablets will be able to wirelessly show evidence and other material on large display screens in court rooms.  All this will deliver greater transparency and savings.

Outside the courts we are making progress too.  Just the other week, we launched a new digital service that will allow people charged with minor motoring offences to make a plea online at a time and place of their choosing. The new ‘Make a Plea’ service will be rolled out across England and Wales from March, following a successful pilot in Greater Manchester.

People charged with summary motoring offences, like speeding, failing to identify the driver or using a vehicle without insurance, will be able to use a clear, concise, and secure website to respond to charges against them.

The service is just the latest stage of ongoing Government work to modernise the courts, and other public services, to provide simpler access for users and better value for taxpayers.

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The courts and tribunals of England and Wales receive national and international acclaim for the manner in which they deliver justice. Without this investment their continued ability to do so would have been gravely threatened. Managed decline would have been inevitable.  The outlook, given the international competition, would have been bleak for London as an international dispute resolution centre.

I am extremely proud of the fact that even against the background of a still difficult financial situation, we are delivering the investment needed to guarantee that our courts remains front and centre in delivering the kind of modern criminal justice system we need.

The reality is that we will need to go on looking for ever more innovative and efficient ways of delivering justice if we are to stay ahead in the global race, and if we are to meet the demands put on the system by today’s society. That will remain the challenge for the next Government.

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020 7799 6699

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