The Prisons and Courts Bill will transform the lives of offenders and put victims at the heart of the justice system, helping to create a safer and better society.
The legislation will underpin measures in the recently published Prison Safety and Reform White Paper, and will help transform how our prisons are run. Prisons are there to punish people who break the law but we need to make sure we take the opportunity they provide to give offenders the skills they need to turn their lives around, driving down the £15 billion cost to society of reoffending.
The Bill is a vital step in our path to prison reform. It will set a new framework and clear system of accountability for prisons which – for the first time – enshrines into law that a key purpose of prison is to reform and rehabilitate offenders.
Under this framework, the Justice Secretary will account to Parliament for progress in reforming offenders, and a strengthened inspectorate and ombudsman will provide sharper external scrutiny of the system. This framework will be supported by
- new standards and league tables
- a new commissioning structure
- new powers for governors.
The Bill also includes a range of measures to give effect to our vision for a modern and world-renowned justice system that
- provides targeted and supportive care to those who need it
- is straightforward so that people can have confidence in using the system themselves or with the help of lawyers
- cements our reputation for global legal excellence so we can go on attracting business to the United Kingdom.
This vision was set out in an unprecedented joint statement by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Chief Justice and Senior President of Tribunals in September 2016.
Victims and vulnerable witnesses are central to the Bill which gives the courts the power to put an end to domestic violence victims being quizzed by their alleged attackers in the family courts, calling time on what the Justice Secretary has described as a “humiliating and appalling” practice. This follows an urgent review she commissioned in January 2017.
Through this and our wider our reforms, we will create a system that is efficient and fit-for-purpose, with facilities across the entire estate that are modern, user-friendly, and work in favour of our hard-working and dedicated judges and magistrates.
Following a wide-ranging consultation on our plans for reform launched last year, the Bill also includes a package of measures which will disincentivise minor, exaggerated and fraudulent soft tissue injury claims.