In the Media

No 10 admits criminal justice system is in chaos

PUBLISHED May 15, 2006

Tony Blair will admit today that the criminal justice system is still in chaos more than nine years after Labour came to power.

The Prime Minister will concede that a string of initiatives has failed to restore public confidence in a system that too often appears more interested in the rights of offenders than victims.

His admission comes as Downing Street released letters he wrote to John Reid, the Home Secretary, and Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor, urging them to get a grip of the problems.

Mr Blair will deliver his mea culpa as he appears alongside John Prescott today at the launch a Labour campaign on the future of public services.

Mr Blair will tell his audience: "People want a society without prejudice but with rules; rules that are fair; that we all play by; and rules that when broken carry a penalty.

"The truth is most people don't think we have such a society. The problem of crime can be subject to lurid reporting or undue focus on terrible but exceptional cases. But even allowing for this, the fundamental point is valid.

"Despite our attempts to toughen the law and reform the criminal justice system - reform that has often uncovered problems long untouched - the CJS is still the public service most distant from what reasonable people want."

Mr Blair reinforced the need to get a grip of the criminal justice system in a letter to Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor.

"You should continue to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the courts by focusing on how to bring about speedy, simple, summary justice," he wrote.

Mr Blair said he wanted to see more "specialisation" in the system, with some courts focusing on particular issues such as anti-social behaviour, drugs and domestic violence.

There was a similar message to Mr Reid. Mr Blair said it was vital that ministers made sure the system was "shaped around targeting the offender and not just the offence, in order to enhance public protection and ensure that the law-abiding majority can live without fear".

He said there needed to be particular focus on improving the Probation Service following recent criticism.

Mr Blair also called for firm action to ensure that foreign prisoners were deported, as well as fresh efforts to tackle Islamic extremists.