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Criminal Justice System

Volume 671: debated on Monday 10 February 2020

10. What steps she is taking with the Attorney General and the Secretary of State for Justice to help ensure that people have confidence in the criminal justice system. (900683)

22. What steps she is taking with the Attorney General and the Secretary of State for Justice to help ensure that people have confidence in the criminal justice system. (900696)

The Government are looking at all aspects of the criminal justice system to ensure it works for victims, witnesses and the most vulnerable. We all have a part to play in that—this is not just a Home Office matter—and today the Cabinet’s new committee on the criminal justice system will meet to look at how we can drive better integration across government.

As part of that work, I welcome the review of sentencing we are undertaking. We need to ensure that sentencing reflects the severity of the crime. I ran a survey for residents in Crewe and Nantwich to tell me what they think and they overwhelmingly back what we are doing. They also tell me that the term “life sentence” is not fit for purpose. I do not understand why someone whose loved one has been murdered might hear that the person responsible has been given a life sentence but see them walk out of jail, while they are still serving the true life sentence of living with a lost relative.

My hon. Friend makes some very valid points about victims, sentences and the criminal justice system. I had the privilege of meeting some of his constituents when I visited his constituency during the election. It is fair to say that the work we are doing with regard to changes to sentences and working with the criminal justice system will ensure that sentences will fit the crime and that we can therefore restore public confidence in the criminal justice system.

In the Flint area of my Delyn constituency, violent and sexual assaults made up 47% of crimes committed in the second half of last year and antisocial behaviour 21%, yet for all crimes committed across the board only 7% went to court, 31% are still being investigated and 55% were closed with no action. What can my right hon. Friend do to assure my constituents that the Government will ensure that offenders are brought to court in a timely and efficient timeframe?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight those appalling figures and statistics, which go to show that victims are not being served and justice is not being given to the victims of those crimes. In terms of what we should do and are doing, there is now clear financial uplift to the Crown Prosecution Service. We are pressing the CPS and working with it closely to address many of the failings and inadequacies in the system. We must eradicate such delays and ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice.

It is not just in the CPS that there are delays and bottlenecks. The Home Secretary will know that in the court system, too, there are very significant delays exacerbated in some cases by the lack of access to legal aid, which means defendants having to represent themselves. Will she say what discussions she is having with her counterparts in the Ministry of Justice about speeding up the courts process?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to highlight the issues about access to justice. The work that has taken place and will be taking place through the new Cabinet Committee on Crime and Justice, and the work that I am undertaking in addition with the Ministry of Justice, very much shine a spotlight on that. We have to support individuals as they go through the legal process, the court process and the court systems. The Government have announced a royal commission into the criminal justice system, where some of those issues will be addressed.

One group of people who often do not have confidence in the criminal justice system are those with autism and their families. They often get caught up in the criminal justice system inappropriately. Will the Home Secretary agree to work with Ministers in other Departments and perhaps set up a cross-ministerial working group to ensure that people with autism are not unnecessarily caught up in the criminal justice system?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments, and the new committee that the Prime Minister has established seeks to do exactly this. We have to look across Government. No one Department has the answers to any of the challenges not only with the system but in terms of how we can protect victims and individuals. Cross-government working is absolutely crucial, and I am very happy to work with individuals and people who have experience of this.