In the Media

London mayor 'should run criminal justice'

PUBLISHED December 2, 2014

The London Mayor's Office has called for the criminal justice system to be devolved.

Stephen Greenhalgh, deputy mayor for policing and crime, said: 'Devolution of the criminal justice system to London level would deliver a swifter, better service for victims and put a stop to the pass-the-parcel approach of today's criminal justice agencies.

'Bringing it all under the oversight of the Mayor's Office would enable us to co-commission services and put a greater focus on cutting unnecessary court delays as well as repeat offending.'

A devolved justice system, Greenhalgh said, would mean significant back-office savings while reducing demand on the police.

At present the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime sets the direction and budget for the Metropolitan Police Service on behalf of the mayor. It also sets targets and scrutinises police performance.

'Having performance oversight and budgetary devolution in City Hall, as opposed to Whitehall, means stronger accountability to Londoners that the criminal justice system is here to serve,' Greenhalgh argued.

'It does not mean compromising the independence of prosecutors and the judiciary.'

Justice minister Mike Penning said there were no plans to devolve the criminal justice system 'in its entirety' to a local level. 

'Crime is falling and offenders are going to prison for longer than ever before,' he said. 'Police and crime commissioners are already having an influence across the criminal justice system through their work to prevent and cut crime.

'They play a crucial role in their communities by identifying and responding to victims' needs - that's why they have the power to commission certain victims' services, and why they will play a vital role in our radical reforms to rehabilitate offenders in the community.'

A spokeswoman for the Crown Prosecution Service said: 'As our status is determined by parliament, the issue is really a matter for parliament to discuss.'

A Law Society spokesperson said: 'We will study the plan in detail and can understand some attractions of this proposal. However, the independence of prosecutors in making decisions, and magistrates and judges in sentencing is absolutely crucial and must not be compromised by political interference. Any proposals would need to ensure that this was protected.

'Consistency in the criminal justice system is important. It would be problematic if there were a "postcode lottery" for justice.  It's not acceptable for people to be treated differently for the same offence in different parts of the country.'

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