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Corston Report

Volume 468: debated on Thursday 6 December 2007

I am today publishing a Command Paper—“The Government’s Response to the Report by Baroness Corston of a Review of Women with Particular Vulnerabilities in the Criminal Justice System” (Cm 7261). Copies are available on the official documents website at:

www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm72/7261/7261.asp

First, the paper indicates how the Government are responding to the 43 recommendations made by my right hon. and noble Friend Baroness Corston in her report. I am delighted that it has been possible to accept almost all of the recommendations.

Secondly, it gives a commitment to produce a detailed delivery plan within the next six months that will provide the mechanism by which all of the commitments identified in the response will be implemented. This will be driven forward by establishing a new cross-departmental Criminal Justice Women’s Unit based in the Ministry of Justice.

I am very grateful to my right hon. and noble Friend for the report which provides a detailed and comprehensive analysis of the many and complex issues affecting women offenders and women at risk of offending. The Government agree that more needs to be done to address these issues and to tackle problems at an earlier stage—in the community in particular. The duty of Government is to protect the public but it is right that we continue to look at how the penal system treats women, and importantly to look at what is most effective in preventing reoffending.

My right hon. and noble Friend considered that the key to success was the need for high level governance and better mechanisms for cross-departmental working. I am therefore very pleased that we are able to set out in the Government response the action that will be taken to improve governance arrangements. The inter-ministerial group on reducing reoffending will provide the governance for this work, we will establish a cross-departmental Criminal Justice Women’s Unit within the Ministry of Justice, and we have identified a ministerial champion—the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Garston (Maria Eagle)—who will have responsibility for taking forward this work.

The response also sets out a number of ways in which services for women in the criminal justice system will be developed.

I would like to thank my ministerial colleagues and officials in their departments who have contributed to the development of this response. I look forward to working with them, and our non-Government stakeholders, in taking forward these commitments together. I am determined to make sure that more is done to ensure that we have in the 21st century a system that is properly responsive to the needs and characteristics of women.