Examining the case for justice devolution

New discussion paper by Harvey Redgrave

A new report from GovernUp suggests that top-down reform of criminal justice is failing and proposes that Police & Crime Commissioners (PCCs) and directly elected Mayors should be given new powers over youth justice, courts, prosecutions, and adult prison budgets. 

The discussion paper, published today (14 December), points to figures that show a criminal justice system that is struggling to cope with rising demand and increasingly squeezed budgets, and examines the case for devolving a range of justice functions to local areas.  

It recommends that PCCs or directly elected Mayors should be given the tools to join up services across an area - in order to deal with the root cause of crime and end the cycle of repeat offending - rather than managing its consequences.

Commenting on the report, Rt Hon Nick Herbert CBE MP, former Minister for Policing & Criminal Justice and Co-Chair of GovernUp, said:

"Our justice system is under real strain and the old top-down approaches have failed. We need radical reform to keep pace with rising demand and make the justice system much more accountable to local people who pay for it.

"Now that they are well established, Mayors and PCCs are the obvious figures to take on these new powers ... [and] join up criminal justice at a local level so we can finally improve services, protect victims and stop the costly cycle of failure."

Harvey Redgrave, Director of Strategy at Crest Advisory, and former advisor in the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit who authored the GovernUp report said:

“Our criminal justice system is in a parlous state. Victims are waiting longer to get justice, our prisons are overcrowded and dangerous and reoffending rates have not improved in over a decade.

Many of the levers for change actually lie outside criminal justice, including better education, health and access to accommodation. It makes no sense that local areas have neither the means, nor incentive to invest in alternatives to prison."

Tony Lloyd, Greater Manchester Police & Crime Commissioner and Interim Mayor for Greater Manchester, said:

“This is a welcome report which keeps devolution and the transformation of criminal justice in the spotlight. In Greater Manchester, devolution is allowing us to strengthen our work in delivering effective local justice, pushing boundaries and exploring news ways to reduce offending and put victims and witnesses at the heart. But nationally the criminal justice is under pressure, and we need investment from central government to make sure the transformation of local justice does not stall.” 

This report forms part of GovernUp's Localism 2.0 project, exploring new ways to empower local communities.  

You can read the full report here