Comment on Justice and Home Secretary appointments

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Commenting on the appointment of Liz Truss as Justice Secretary our Director, Richard Garside, said:

Liz Truss' predecessor, Michael Gove, seems destined to go down as the great prison reformer whose career was ended before he had time to disappoint prison reformers.

Regardless of the balance sheet on his time in office, the appointment of Liz Truss affords a welcome opportunity for a rethink of his plans for "Reform Prisons".

The deep problems that beset the prison system – of which the rising number of suicides is only the most disturbing indicator – will not be solved by "Reform Prisons". Indeed, they are a tragic distraction from the real challenges confronting prisons in England and Wales.

The prison system requires institutional stability, action to ground prison regimes in decency and respect and a significant reduction in the prison population.

We are stuck for now with the botched "Transforming Rehabilitation" changes to probation. Liz Truss and her civil servants should place a premium on stabilising the current system in the short-term, while embarking on a longer-term rethink of the arrangements.

The growing risk of miscarriages of justice, as the cash-strapped legal aid system struggles to ensure adequate legal representation, also requires urgent attention.

Commenting on the appointment of Amber Rudd as Home Secretary, Richard said:

As Home Secretary, Theresa May did much to reverse the unnecessary growth of police budgets and personnel under the previous Labour government.

Amber Rudd can build on this legacy by rethinking the purpose of the police and how they should be deployed.

Few calls to the police relate to crime. Indeed, the police are typically the first responders to a range of non-crime incidents, not least of all in relation to mental health.

Much of the work currently being done by the police should be done by other public services better placed to do the work – health, education, social services for instance – or not done at all.

The role of the police needs to be much more tightly defined.