Offenders must "face consequences" for crimes

Offenders must “face the consequences” for the crimes they commit if public confidence in the criminal justice system is to be restored, says Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert.


Mr Herbert's comments were made in a speech at the Policy Exchange think tank in London on Wednesday (23 June) in which he set out the coalition government's approach to law and order.

Mr Herbert, who is the Minister of State for Policing & Criminal Justice, said that he would seek to "create a fairer, more efficient and more accountable criminal justice system which people trust".

He accused the previous government of presiding over a "decade of failure", saying that despite a dramatic rise in spending and a "hail-storm" of new laws, people still had little faith in the system and felt that it respected the rights of the accused more than it met the needs of victims.

The Minister said he wanted to create a criminal justice system that stopped the "revolving door of re-offending", with "common sense" policies including:

  • more focused early intervention;

  • more police officers on the beat, dealing with anti-social behaviour instead of being tied up with paperwork at the station;
  • sentencing that reflects the importance of work and rehabilitation, as well as punishment and reparation to victims;
  • robust and effective community sentences with a focus on reducing re-offending, where offenders are got off drugs, where they complete requirements to work, and where failure to comply is not tolerated;
  • prisons with a purpose, free of drugs, where offenders work and the system focuses on preparing them for release and ensuring that they do not offend again, and;
  • a system that protects the public from dangerous offenders with rigorous supervision arrangements when they are released.

Mr Herbert said that his reforms will be guided by the need for individual and social responsibility and that offenders needed to know that their actions have consequences:

"Without proper boundaries, there is an all-too-familiar escalation from childhood misdemeanours to juvenile anti-social behaviour to adult criminality.  Children at risk of offending are not made to face the consequences of their actions.  As a result, they grow up without ever learning to respect the law, authority and the community in which they live. 

"We need to become comfortable again with the notion of punishment as a consequence of anti-social behaviour.   And the criminal justice system must reinforce responsibility and ensure that offending always has consequences which are visible to the law-abiding majority."

He continued: "We need to insist that offenders accept their responsibilities, too: by paying back to society and victims; by making reparation, including participating in restorative justice where appropriate; by working in community payback and completing the task, and by earning their release from prison rather than expecting early release."

Mr Herbert said that, along with individual responsibility, social responsibility would be vital to safer communities.  He cited the need for parents to take responsibility for their children's behaviour and for schools to have the responsibility and power to enforce discipline.  And he said there was a need to foster a resurgence in community activism so that local communities could play their part in making neighbourhoods safer.

The Minister warned that his reform proposals would have to take account of the dire financial situation and that services would need to deliver more for less.  But he said the success of our criminal justice system should not be judged by how much we spend, but on what it delivers. 

Mr Herbert was appointed to the Government in May, charged by the Prime Minister to support Theresa May at the Home Office and Ken Clarke at the Ministry of Justice to reform policing and criminal justice and ensure a coherent approach between the two departments.  His detailed proposals for reforming the criminal justice system will be set out in the next few months.



Notes for Editors

1. For a full copy of the speech, visit

2. Three years ago, Mr Herbert wrote ‘Policing for the People', the Conservative Party's radical agenda to bring accountability to police forces. He followed this with ‘Prisons with a Purpose' which contained radical proposals to re-cast the penal system and reduce re-offending. For a copy of ‘Policing for the People', visit For a copy of ‘Prisons with a Purpose', visit

3. The full coalition agreement, with sections on Crime & Policing and Justice, can be viewed at:

Alexander Black