A creaking justice system is struggling to keep up

Tory MP NICK HERBERT on what needs to change to ensure the government restores public confidence in how it deals with criminals

Crime is rising, creating tens of thousands of new victims. Criminals are exploiting new opportunities. A creaking justice system is struggling to keep up with the pressures.

Boris Johnson recognises the problem, entering Downing Street with a pledge to recruit 20,000 more police officers and reform sentencing.

Too often sentences fail to reduce re-offending, with criminals receiving one conviction after another, yet fewer of these hardened offenders are now being sent to jail.

Even when they are handed down a prison term, they can be released automatically half way through their sentence, or even earlier with a tag.

Public confidence is seriously eroded by this practice. We need honesty in sentencing, giving courts and prison governors new powers to control the violent, repeat criminals who reoffend at the highest rate.

Automatic early release should be replaced by earned release, so that the behaviour and risk posed by a prisoner determines whether or not they can be released before the end of their full term.

We should intervene earlier and more effectively to prevent repeat offending. New tracking technology could enable demanding semi-custodial sentences as an alternative to ineffective short prison terms, depriving offenders of liberty while enabling them to remain in work.

Alcohol-fuelled incidents account for half of all violent crime. A 24/7 sobriety scheme, using technology to monitor offenders, was successfully trialled by Boris when he was Mayor of London. It should now be made available to all courts.

The structure of policing needs to reflect how crime is changing. 43 separate local forces can’t deal with internet criminals. A powerful new national cyber constabulary should be set up, funded by an Online Safety levy on large internet companies.

Neighbourhood policing needs to be guaranteed though a ringfenced fund, so that the police are put back on the streets, able to focus on preventing crimes, not just reacting to them.

Elected Police Commissioners should become Police and Justice Commissioners, taking over probation services and controlling budgets for short-term custody. At last justice would be joined up, with local agencies working together to prevent crime and reduce re-offending.

The criminal justice system makes insufficient use of technology. New facial recognition systems could transform the fight against gangs and organised crime. GPS tagging should be expanded nationwide to improve community supervision.

The new Prime Minister is serious about tackling offending and making the streets safer. His tough new Home Secretary and able new Justice Secretary want to deliver. They should begin with this plan to make the justice system faster and smarter.

This article appeared in the Daily Mail. You can read the Daily Mail’s news story here and The Project for Modern Democracy’s report on ‘Ten crime and justice priorities for the new Government’ here.

Nick Herbert