For those of us working in the Criminal Justice system, we wait anxiously to see whether our new Prime Minister will be ‘Alexander the Great’ when it comes to renewing confidence in Policing and the Criminal Courts.
Boris, who was christened Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, provided music to the ears of those who work daily to uphold the principals of the Justice system when stating on the steps of No.10 on 23 July 2019 that “my job is to make your streets safer, and we are going to begin with another 20,000 police on the streets and we start recruiting forthwith.”
In recent years, cuts to the Criminal Justice system have been brutal. We see far fewer police officers on the beat, many police stations have closed or only operate on a part-time basis, and over 230 Crown and Magistrates Courts have been closed during the past eight years.
In our own communities, justice must not only be done for criminal activity, it must also be seen to be done. The visibility of law enforcement is essential in serving as a deterrent, and whilst local courts are unlikely to be reopened – meaning increased difficulties for victims, witnesses and the police in travelling to existing ones further afield – reinstating police stations would go a long way in reassuring the public that action is being taken against crime, and reduce the current perception that policing is not easily accessible.
There is no question that everybody wants to see our streets safer. The ongoing rise in knife crime is highly disturbing, and whilst there are of course a number of deep rooted social reasons behind such activity, the reduction in the visibility of criminal justice being adequately delivered is also likely to have contributed to the increase. It is therefore essential that trust and confidence in the system is restored at all levels.
All professionals working in the Criminal Justice system, from police officers to Magistrates, to prosecutors and defence lawyers such as myself, are proud to work within a profession that protects people and ensures that everyone receives fair representation when they need it – whether as a result of suspected criminal activity, or business crime and other regulatory matters. It is welcoming to hear the PM announce police recruitment, but it is not the only area of the Criminal Justice system under-resourced, putting the delivery of law enforcement under considerable pressure at every stage.
I therefore hope that our new Prime Minister and his Chancellor, Sajid Javid, do find a way to balance the country’s books and employ the 20,000 police officers pledged, and that investment in public safety doesn’t end there, but extends to all areas of the criminal legal process.
The rule of law is the backbone of social compliance, and there should be an overall increase in the visibility of our Criminal Justice system on our streets and in our communities. If Mr Johnson can come through on his pledges, he could position himself as the Prime Minister who reinstated confidence in the UK justice system, which may well make him ‘Alexander the Great’.
Mike Hayward is the Head of Crime, Regulatory and Transport at Woodfines Solicitors. See www.woodfines.co.uk for more.