Government promises swift and sure justice
Thursday 16 August 2012
Mencap welcomes the government’s plans to make the criminal justice system more efficient, but stresses the importance of safeguarding people with a learning disability
The government published its white paper on criminal justice reform in July.
‘Swift and Sure Justice: the Government’s Plans for Reform of Criminal Justice’ sets out a programme of reform to modernise criminal justice services, speed up court cases, improve transparency, so the public can understand how the system works, and engage local communities in dealing with low-level offending.
“We want a more flexible criminal justice system,” said justice minister Nick Herbert, “including extending opening hours for courts, maximising the use of technology through virtual courts and prison to court video links and we are looking at radical proposals to speed up cases where offenders plead guilty.”
Mencap welcomes the government’s intentions to get rid of unnecessary bureaucracy and delays in the criminal justice system. “We believe excessive delays have a negative impact on both victims and defendants with a learning disability,” says Jo Davies, Mencap’s campaigns and policy officer. “We also welcome the government’s efforts to increase transparency and accountability, and therefore public confidence, in the system.
“However, this increase in efficiency must not be at the expense of proper support and safeguarding for vulnerable victims, witnesses and defendants. The government has a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people to ensure they are treated equally to non-disabled people, and we believe without such adjustments and safeguards people with a learning disability would be placed at a substantial disadvantage in the criminal justice system.”
In an effort to support defendants with a learning disability through the criminal justice system, Mencap’s Raising Your Game project has produced a film for criminal justice professionals to share with young people, called ‘Getting ready for court’. The project for young people with a learning disability or communication difficulty who are at risk of offending has found that these young people often have trouble understanding court proceedings.