Ministers will be urged to drop ‘ideological opposition’ to devolution of justice

In a parliamentary debate, Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader, Liz Saville Roberts MP, will today (Tuesday 29 November 2022) call for the devolution of justice to Wales.

The Senedd is the only legislature in the UK which does not have powers over policing and justice.

London and Greater Manchester hold greater powers over justice than Wales, despite the Senedd holding full control over policy areas that are crucial to the delivery of justice, such as housing, health and education.

When it comes to justice, Wales, Ms Saville Roberts says, “continues to be treated as an appendage to England despite overwhelming evidence of the harm that causes”.

Ms Saville Roberts’ Westminster Hall Debate on the potential merits of the devolution of justice to Wales follows the publication of a book by academics of Cardiff University which concluded that the full devolution of criminal justice to Wales is a “necessary step” towards a better system.

In their book, The Welsh Criminal Justice System, Dr Robert Jones and Professor Richard Wyn Jones draw upon interview evidence, existing academic work, and official data to provide the first academic account of the Welsh criminal justice system. The results they say, show a system that performs very poorly and in which effective policy-making is rendered difficult due to a “highly unorthodox set of constitutional arrangements.”

It has been three years since the Commission on Justice in Wales. published its report in October 2019 setting a long-term vision for the future of justice in Wales.

The Commission produced 78 different recommendations on how Wales can have a justice system fit for the 21st century, the central one being the devolution of justice and policing and the creation of a separate Welsh legal jurisdiction.

Liz Saville Roberts says that the UK Government must “drop their ideological opposition to the devolution of powers to Wales.”

Ahead of the debate, Liz Saville Roberts said:

“Scotland, Northern Ireland, London, Manchester. All enjoy either full control, or a degree of devolved control of the delivery of justice. Wales, on the hand, continues to be treated as an appendage to England despite overwhelming evidence of the harm that causes.

“This isn’t just about the principle of devolution – it is about the delivery of services. As Dr Robert Jones and Professor Richard Wyn Jones have demonstrated with compelling evidence, the justice system as it stands is failing the people of Wales.

“Wales has the highest rate of imprisonment in western Europe, which fuels a cycle of poverty as well as health and mental health problems. We have higher rates of violent crimes and conviction rates than England.

“Black people are six times more likely to be imprisoned than white people. Nearly half of Welsh children who are imprisoned are detained in England, far from their homes and family support and Court closures have restricted access to justice, particularly in rural areas of Wales.

“Key services such as housing , health and education, are crucial for the delivery of a functional justice system. Devolving justice would allow us to integrate policy with health, education, housing and social policy to create a system that genuinely serves the people of Wales.

“Today, I will be urging the Westminster government to drop their ideological opposition to the devolution of powers to Wales – and consider whether the present situation is truly working for the people of Wales.”