Policing Bill will exacerbate inequalities in Welsh justice system
Wales needs powers to create a ‘more humane and more accountable justice system’ - Liz Saville Roberts MP
Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader and spokesperson on Justice, Liz Saville Roberts MP, has today (15 March 2021) warned that the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will “exacerbate the existing inequalities in our criminal justice system” and called for powers over justice to be devolved to Wales in order to create a “more humane and more accountable justice system.”
The Bill, whose Second Reading will take place in the House of Commons today, introduces a raft of significant changes to the criminal justice system, including new powers to restrict protest and to expand stop and search.
Plaid Cymru MPs will be voting against the Bill.
During the debate in the House of Commons, Ms Saville Roberts will argue that the Bill:
- Will exacerbate the existing inequalities in our criminal justice system.
- Will put pressure on Welsh services and further complicate the interaction between devolved and non-devolved policies.
- Shows more than ever that the devolution of powers over justice is essential to deliver a fairer system.
Following the violent response of Police to a vigil in memory of Sarah Everard on Saturday, Ms Saville Roberts will say that the Home Secretary’s “crackdown on the right to protest” leads to “more aggressive interventions”, and will question how a further suppression of rights will address inequalities.
Ms Saville Roberts says that instead of providing a “joined-up approach that properly integrates justice with health, education and social policy”, the Bill will “place further strain on the system in Wales."
She will go on to say that due to the UK Government’s “blind-spot to devolution” and policies “designed by England, for England”, the Bill could “further complicate the unsustainable mess” of the so-called ‘jagged edge’ of justice policy in Wales – the complex interaction of devolved areas such as social, health, education, and economic development policies, with reserved responsibilities over justice.
The Bill introduces a ‘Serious Violence duty’, which expects local public services to work together to reduce serious violence. It also introduces the piloting of ‘Problem solving courts’ to tackle underlying reasons for offending e.g. Substance abuse, mental health problems and domestic violence. However, it is unclear how these measures will be delivered in Wales, where powers are devolved, or how they will be funded.
The Plaid Cymru MP will reiterate her party’s call for the devolution of powers over justice, arguing that it would give an opportunity to “deliver a more humane and more accountable justice system”.
Ms Saville Roberts will say:
“The Bill’s harsher approach to sentencing is a step backwards and will only exacerbate the existing inequalities in our criminal justice system.
“We all see, for instance, how the Home Secretary’s crackdown on the right to peaceful protest leads to more aggressive interventions – from the vigil in Clapham on Saturday, to Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion. We all know that the Bill’s stop and search measures will disproportionately target black people. I ask her – honestly – how does she expect these measures to address inequalities?
“Rather than giving us the powers we need to create a joined-up approach that properly integrates justice with health, education and social policy, this Bill will place further strain on the system in Wales, and lead to worse outcomes for all.”
She will continue:
“Despite twenty years of devolution, powers over justice remain in Westminster – but the delivery of many of the related services is the responsibility of the Welsh Government.
“New measures are announced in this Bill risk only further complicating the unsustainable mess of the ‘jagged edge’ of Welsh justice policy. Initiatives such as ‘Problem solving courts’ require the close cooperation of probation and health professionals. How will they be delivered in Wales, where powers over health are devolved? And crucially, what additional funding will we receive to deliver them?
“Given this Government’s blind-spot to devolution, I fear that yet again, these policies have been designed by England, for England.
“We could do so much better in Wales if we had proper control of our policing and criminal justice. We could deliver a more humane and more accountable justice system – in stark contrast to the regressive measures contained in this Bill.”