Written statements

Government Ministers and a small number of other Members of the two Houses can make a written statement to one or both Houses.

Written statements are published below shortly after receipt in Parliament. They also reproduced in the next edition of the Daily Report and of Hansard in the relevant House.

Written statements made before 17 November 2014 were published only in Hansard:

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Ministry of Justice
Made on: 21 July 2020
Made by: Robert Buckland (Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice)
Commons

Government response to the Prison Service Pay Review Body recommendations 20/21

I am today announcing the government’s decision on pay rises for prison staff.

The Prison Service Pay Review Body (PSPRB) has made its recommendations for the 2020-21 pay award. The Government values the independent expertise and insight of the PSPRB and takes on board the valuable advice, principles outlined, and constructive challenge to the Government’s evidence outlined in the report.

Today I am announcing that we are accepting in full the recommendations made by the review body for implementation from April 2020. For clarity these are recommendations 1, 2 and 4 to 7.

This will deliver a pay rise of at least 2.5% for all prison staff – with cumulative awards of up to 7.5% for some staff when progression pay is taken into account. For a Band 3 prison officer on the modern terms and conditions the pay settlement is worth on average £1,086.

This is the third year in a row that we have put in place an award of at least 2% for our prison staff and delivers an above inflation increase. In addition to their pay, prison officers continue to benefit from defined benefit pensions, which are amongst the most generous available. We are conscious that public sector pay awards must deliver value for money for the taxpayer. Government will continue to take this into account in agreeing public sector pay awards in future.

This award will support the recruitment and retention of prison officers and managers and recognises the essential contribution they make every day – which has only been highlighted by their professional and dedicated response to the unique challenges of delivering safe prisons during the pandemic.

In addition to its core recommendations to be implemented from April 2020, the PSPRB have also recommended a further overall increase of £3,000 for ‘Band 3’ prison officers on modernised terms and conditions from September 2020 (recommendation 3).

It is only right that such a substantial increase for our largest staffing group is considered more carefully over the coming months as we move towards the Spending Review; due to the exceptional costs associated with implementing this recommendation, the impact on the overall pay structure, and the changing labour market conditions due to the exceptional economic impacts of the pandemic. The Government will also need to consider the recommendation in the context of the pay rises being given to other hard-working public servants.

Furthermore, we wish to open discussions with recognised trade unions on the implications of this recommendation and how any such uplift in pay might be best implemented in an affordable and mutually beneficial manner alongside workforce reforms that deliver the best value for money for tax payers.

The government will therefore announce its response to this recommendation later in the year.

The report has been laid before Parliament today, 21 July, and a copy is attached. I am grateful to the Chair and members of the Review Body for their report.

Prison Service Pay Review Body Report (PDF Document, 1.12 MB)
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS400
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Ministry of Justice
Made on: 16 July 2020
Made by: Robert Buckland (The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice)
Commons

Judicial update

I am today launching three government consultations on proposals for judicial pensions and the judicial mandatory retirement age.

The independent judiciary is a pillar of our democracy and plays a unique role in ensuring our freedoms and prosperity. Every day, judges take decisions on critically important issues that directly impact on people’s lives.

The importance and influence of our judiciary also reaches beyond our shores. Its reputation for integrity and impartiality helps attract international business to the UK, contributing to a legal services industry worth around £25 billion a year to our economy.

As Lord Chancellor, I have a duty to ensure that we have enough judges and that we continue to attract the very best legal practitioners to the bench. In its Major Review of the Judicial Salary Structure, presented to this House on 26 October 2018, the Senior Salaries Review Body identified clear evidence of growing recruitment and retention issues at all tiers of the judiciary and pointed to pension-related changes as the main cause. The Government response to the Major Review, published on 5 June 2019, included a commitment to provide a long-term solution to these problems by making changes to judicial pensions.

Proposals for reforming the judicial pension scheme

The first consultation being published today sets out our proposals for reforming the judicial pension scheme to address the significant problems of recruitment and retention that we continue to experience. If we fail to tackle this issue, we put at risk the effective functioning of our justice system and its reputation. Without enough judges, cases will take longer, seriously affecting all jurisdictions. It will also undermine our ability to compete internationally for legal services, which are of such importance to the UK economy.

The proposed approach to pension reform offers a remuneration package which is both fair to the taxpayer and attractive to potential candidates for judicial office. I am confident that it will enable us to attract and retain high-calibre judges, ensuring the proper functioning of our justice system and supporting the UK’s wider prosperity. The aim is that the reformed scheme will come into operation from April 2022.

This consultation document is available online at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/consultation-on-a-reformed-judicial-pension-scheme.

Proposals for responding to the McCloud litigation

Alongside the consultation on future reform of the judicial pension scheme, we are consulting on proposals for addressing the unlawful age discrimination identified in the case of McCloud in respect of the 2015 reforms of the judicial pension scheme.

The consultation proposes that the Ministry of Justice will run a single options exercise, which will give judges in scope of the McCloud judgment the choice of whether to have retrospectively accrued benefits in the 2015 pension scheme or the legacy scheme from 1 April 2015. Membership of the chosen scheme would continue until 31 March 2022, following which the reformed pension scheme is scheduled to come into operation.

Owing to the unique characteristics of the judicial pension schemes, the Ministry of Justice proposals are distinct from the approach being taken to most other public service pension schemes, as set out in HM Treasury’s McCloud consultation which was also published today.

The consultation document relating to the judicial scheme is available online at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/consultation-on-the-proposed-response-to-mccloud.

Proposals for increasing the judicial mandatory retirement age

Finally, we are also publishing a consultation on proposals for changing the mandatory retirement age for judges. The make-up of our judiciary has changed significantly in recent years and so have the resourcing needs of our courts and tribunals. We have responded to this change by increasing our recruitment programmes, but challenges remain. At the same time, life expectancy has increased. We are therefore consulting on whether to raise the mandatory retirement age for judicial office holders.

The proposals in this consultation would allow judges, coroners and magistrates to sit for longer and continue to contribute to the justice system. These proposals only relate to those judicial offices for which the UK Parliament has sole competence to legislate. The Ministry of Justice will continue to engage the Devolved Administrations of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales on approaches to the mandatory retirement age for judicial office holders across the UK.

This consultation document is available online at:
https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/judicial-mandatory-retirement-age.

The consultations close on 16 October 2020 and the Government will publish its response to each in early 2021.

The three consultation documents have been placed in the Library of the House.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS379
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Ministry of Justice
Made on: 16 July 2020
Made by: Robert Buckland (The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice)
Commons

Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme Review 2020

Today I have laid before parliament a public consultation on proposals following a review of the statutory Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (the Scheme).

No amount of compensation can ever make up for the harm and suffering caused to victims and families by violent crime. However, compensation, alongside victims’ services and other practical and emotional support, can help victims of violent crime to start to rebuild their lives.

In 2018, in the first-ever cross-government Victims Strategy, we made two commitments; to abolish the pre-1979 “same roof rule” which denied compensation for some victims who lived with their attacker prior to 1979, and to undertake a comprehensive review of the Scheme, the last having been undertaken in 2012.

We met the first commitment in June 2019 when an amended 2012 Scheme came into force. Victims who have never applied for compensation, perhaps because of the existence of the rule, can now do so. And we have also made provision for victims whose applications had previously been refused under this rule to reapply. I am pleased to announce today that over £10m has been made available to hundreds of victims who applied under the amended Scheme in the period to 5 April 2020. Under the amended Scheme, victims can continue to apply up to 13 June 2021.

The review of the Scheme has been thorough. We have looked at how the Scheme takes account of trends in violent crime and attitudes within society, and have examined the impact of the Scheme’s rules on particular victim groups who might apply for compensation. We have considered carefully the scope of the Scheme, eligibility rules, requirements in relation to decision-making, the value and composition of awards, and the affordability and financial sustainability of the Scheme.

The review has taken into account recommendations from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, and the Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, and examined topical issues. We have listened to concerns and feedback, and tested criticisms and perceptions. Analysis of a three-year period of caseload data has given us a detailed picture of the operation of the Scheme and the impacts of different rules on victims. We have found that for the vast majority of applicants the Scheme is working well and as intended, but we recognise there are areas where it may not be serving victims as effectively as it might.

Underlying the proposals in this consultation are key principles that have been woven into the fabric of the Scheme and which I believe must be retained: that it is a universal scheme that exists to support all eligible victims of violent crime who have suffered the most serious injuries, and that compensation is an important and public recognition of their suffering.

I want to make it easier for victims to understand and engage with the Scheme. We have identified changes that I believe will improve the experience of victims applying to the Scheme, by making it simpler and easier to navigate, and more transparent. We are asking for views on proposals including on:

  • Ways to simplify the tariff of injuries and to update provisions for disabling mental injury;
  • Reducing burdens in cases where a loved one is lost, by moving to a single bereavement payment for all qualifying relatives and to a flat rate funeral payment; and
  • Removing the remaining “same roof rule” that has applied since 1979.

We are also consulting on the merits of a separate scheme for victims of terrorism, both domestic and international, and for views on legislating to make provision for families bereaved by homicide that occurs outside Great Britain.

The consultation is available in full at: https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/criminal-injuries-compensation-scheme-review-2020

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS374
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Ministry of Justice
Made on: 01 July 2020
Made by: Robert Buckland (The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice)
Commons

Courts and tribunals recovery update

I am today setting out progress being made to recover the operations of our courts and tribunals in response to the pandemic. Responsibility for the courts and tribunals is shared with the Lord Chief Justice and Senior President of Tribunals, to whom I am very grateful for continued close collaboration in this endeavour.

Since March, the priority of the Government, working closely with the judiciary and others, has been to ensure the justice system continues to perform its vital role while keeping court and tribunal users safe in line with public health guidelines. To achieve this, HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has rapidly expanded the use of technology to allow hearings to be conducted by phone and video and temporarily closed around half of its building to focus effort and resources more effectively. The most urgent cases have been prioritised by the judiciary to ensure public safety, protect the vulnerable and safeguard children.

As a result, our courts and tribunals in England and Wales have been able to sustain more activity than many other comparable jurisdictions internationally. Huge credit must go to the judges, magistrates, HMCTS staff, legal professionals and all those involved in proceedings for their work in the face of the extraordinary challenges posed by the pandemic.

Having responded effectively to the immediate crisis, HMCTS is now fully focused on recovering its operation to increase courts and tribunal capacity to deal both with normal workloads across jurisdictions and outstanding cases. The challenges of doing so are no less great, not least because of the constraints imposed by social distancing. But doing so is essential if we are to ensure that our justice system delivers for the those it is there to serve.

As part of the Prime Minister’s plan for economic recovery, he announced yesterday (30 June) that HMCTS will be receiving £142m of additional capital funding this year to speed up technological improvements and modernise courtrooms, building on the rapid progress made to keep the system running during the coronavirus pandemic. Of this £142m, £105m is allocated to improving the court and tribunal estate. This investment – along with £48m already in the HMCTS budget – will see £153m invested in improvements to court and tribunal buildings over the coming year, which is the biggest single investment in maintenance of the court estate for over 20 years.

Today, HMCTS has also published a progress update on its recovery plans for the short and medium terms. It is available at www.gov.uk/hmcts and includes the following work.


First, HMCTS is working to increase physical capacity to enable more cases to be heard. All courts and tribunal buildings are being reopened in line with wider advice on social distancing and public safety. Throughout April, over 150 of the 341 sites used for physical hearings were open to the public in response to the pandemic outbreak. As of the beginning of this week (29 June 2020), 284 were open following detailed risk assessments and essential modifications to ensure they are safe. Nearly all locations will become operational throughout July, and a range of physical modifications are being made, such as the installation of screens where appropriate.

New criminal jury trials, which had been suspended since late March, were restarted in four Crown Courts in the week beginning 18 May, following the implementation of particular measures to ensure the safety of all participants. As of this week, a total of 25 courts are holding trials again.

In addition, HMCTS is exploring options to stagger and extend the operating hours of courts and tribunals, including starting hearings at different times of day and weekend sittings, to manage the flow of people through our buildings and enable more cases to be heard safely. It is working closely with stakeholder groups in different jurisdictions to identify the areas that have the most impact in terms of increasing capacity. HMCTS is also actively locating other buildings from across England and Wales to use as court and tribunal locations or to support the expansion of existing sites. HMCTS is also actively locating other buildings, including new venues and former court buildings, to use as court and tribunal locations on a temporary basis. Ten sites have been identified across England and Wales and these will be confirmed and announced locally in due course.

Second, HMCTS is working to expand access to audio and video technology to support more and new types of hearings. There has been a significant increase in the use of such equipment over the last three months and, with the right IT solutions, many more hearings could take place. HMCTS has been rolling out the Cloud Video Platform (CVP) to all criminal courts, and there are plans to provide this across other jurisdictions too. Throughout July, CVP will start to be made available to an increasing number of County courts. We will be rolling out further hardware to improve the quality of video hearings, and we will be finding new, increasingly efficient ways of organising video lists.

Third, HMCTS is introducing a range of measures to make best use of judicial time, support court and tribunal staff and users and ensure the justice system is there for those that need it. It is supporting judges to list in ways that make full use of the space we can safely use and will support Alternative Dispute Resolution for cases where it is appropriate. It is deploying laptops to staff to enhance flexible working to support case activity. In addition, HMCTS will review and implement measures to ensure all vulnerable users are supported effectively to ensure they can access services and participate fully in hearings.

These are all important measures to support the recovery of our courts and tribunals. But returning to pre-Covid-19 activity will require sustained and long-term focus. Alongside these operational measures being introduced by HMCTS, the Government continues to keep under review options that will enable more hearings to take place while social distancing restrictions remain in place.

We will also make sure that we learn lessons from what has happened in our response to Covid-19. The unprecedented nature of this public health emergency has required all parts of the justice system to adopt new ways of working without the preparation that would normally take place, and under conditions that have not previously been tested. While some changes will be time-limited and will stop with the end of the pandemic, others may be valuable in the longer term. We will therefore listen to feedback from judges, staff, practitioners and users to improve the way we work in the short term, and gather data and other evidence to support continuous improvement. We will also evaluate and review the measures put in place to respond to Covid-19, so that we can learn lessons and make well-informed decisions about which should be adopted and/or adapted in the longer-term.

Implementation of the courts and tribunals reform programme has continued throughout the pandemic response and new digital services to the public have worked normally. The lessons learned will help inform the next phases of modernisation, building on the existing principles and plans.

I will place a copy of COVID-19: Overview of HMCTS response in the library of both Houses.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS322
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Ministry of Justice
Made on: 29 June 2020
Made by: Robert Buckland (The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice)
Commons

Prisons update

My Rt. Hon. Friend, the Prime Minister, has previously made clear his focus on tackling crime and last year announced investment of up to £2.5 billion to create 10,000 additional prison places that are decent, safe and secure and support the modernisation of the prison estate.

I am officially today, jointly with my Rt. Hon. Friend, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Steve Barclay MP, reaffirming the government’s commitment to building 10,000 additional prison places by announcing the funding and delivery of around 6,500 of these places through the construction of four new prisons which will provide a much-needed boost to the construction sector as it moves into a post COVID-19 world.

This work starts with Full Sutton, in East Yorkshire, where we already have outline planning permission for a new 1,440 place prison. Further work is underway to identify and secure sites for a further three new prisons which we anticipate will each comprise 1,680 places, subject to geographical and planning constraints.

Together, these four prisons will create around 65% of the 10,000 additional places and will build on the design and progress that we have already made at Wellingborough and Glen Parva as well as on the work we have done to ensure faster, cheaper and more efficient construction for public services, in particular using modern methods of construction.

This demonstrates a clear commitment from the government to the UK construction sector and its determination to help the country and the construction market get back on its feet following on from the COVID-19 pandemic by offering a clear pipeline of work and investment.

My Rt. Hon. Friend, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and I want to take this opportunity to thank constructors around the country for their commitment to keep construction sites open and operating and for their innovation enabling sites and associated activities to follow Public Health England (PHE) guidance and to adhere to social distancing measures.

The impact of COVID-19 on the construction sector has been felt both in the demand for new buildings and the ability to operate safely in line with government guidance. Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) has felt this impact directly at the construction site for the new resettlement prison at Wellingborough in Northamptonshire. HMPPS has worked with suppliers, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, to ensure that construction has continued safely. Workers are following PHE guidance and the Construction Leadership Council’s Site Operating Procedures.

While no decisions have been made on who will operate these four new prisons, we maintain this government’s commitment to a mixed market in custodial services, and it is our ambition that at least one of these new prisons will be operated by the public sector to support the modernisation of the public prison estate. We have previously announced that the operation of both our new prisons at Glen Parva and at Wellingborough will be competed via our Prison Operator Services Framework in shorter, targeted ‘mini’ competitions. Following a successful and robust evaluation of the bids received for the Wellingborough Operator Competition, we have a successful bidder, which will be announced soon.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS316
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Ministry of Justice
Made on: 18 June 2020
Made by: Robert Buckland (The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice)
Commons

Youth Custody

Youth offending has fallen – to 38.4% in the latest youth justice statistics – thanks to successive governments’ efforts to improve education, social care and mental health support. Clear guidance to the judiciary that custody should be an absolute last resort for children has also seen numbers fall by 78% between 2008 and 2019. There are now fewer than 700 children currently held in Young Offender Institutions, Secure Training Centres and Secure Children’s Homes. This is an unprecedented low, and down from a peak of 3,200 in October 2002.

This is a success that as a society we should be incredibly proud of. These early interventions have meant that thousands of children each year avoid heading into adulthood as criminals, into a life of crime that is much harder to break once ingrained. This Government’s efforts to support children and upgrade their life chances continue at pace – whether that be the additional funding being put into our schools or the extra support now available to children’s mental health services.

But we know there is far more still to do, particularly for those who still enter custody – a much more concentrated mix of children with complex issues, over 50% of whom have convictions for serious violence. We are spending £5 million putting each prison officer who works in the youth custody estate through a specialist degree programme, giving them a greater understanding of child and adolescent development. We have also increased the number of staff in young offender institutions by a third in the last four years.

We are investing in the development of Enhanced Support Units (ESUs) to provide specialist psychological support and services for children with the most complex needs, with ESUs now at Feltham and Wetherby YOIs. We are also working with NHS England on a new integrated approach to strengthen the provision of health care and support (‘SECURE STAIRS’) which is rolling out across the youth secure estate.

But there are elements of practice in youth custody which, frankly, have not been good enough. Today I have published two reports on the use of restraint and separation in the secure youth justice estate.

Staff in the youth estate are trained to use behaviour management and de-escalation techniques and only resort to physical restraint when there is no alternative and either their safety or that of children is at further risk.

However, keen to ensure those prison officers working with children were receiving adequate training and were using such techniques appropriately, the Government commissioned Charlie Taylor, then the Chair of the Youth Justice Board, to carry out an independent review into the use of pain-inducing restraint.

In his report, Charlie Taylor references a number of incidents in which he believes the use of a pain-inducing restraint potentially saved a child’s life. He is therefore clear that staff must retain the ability to intervene safely when there is a clear and imminent risk of serious harm to a child, themselves or another member of staff. However, he also found instances where it was used inappropriately and, now, I want to ensure the use of such restraint is proportionate and reasonable and only used when there is no other alternative.

That is why the Government has accepted all fifteen recommendations in Charlie Taylor’s report, and the Youth Custody Service has developed a programme of work which will implement them. Techniques that cause pain, albeit in order to prevent further serious harm, will no longer be taught alongside other methods to manage behaviour, to make it even clearer that these are a last resort designed only to protect children or staff from further injury. This will ensure that such techniques are only used when there is no alternative in order to prevent serious harm and therefore protect children and staff from trauma wherever possible. A panel will also be established to carefully scrutinise incidents in which a pain-inducing restraint has been used to ensure they are being used appropriately and that the welfare of children and staff is a key consideration.

The second report I have published today builds on our initial response to the thematic report on separation in Young Offender Institutions, which HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) published in January.

The findings in the report made for some challenging reading at the time and I was pleased with the exceptional effort from the Youth Custody Service in acting so swiftly to address the regime provided for separated children.

It is extremely unfortunate that at the point at which we were starting to see improvements for separated children we went into a period, that because of coronavirus, has forced us into a situation where all children in custody have unfortunately had to spend more time behind their doors than we would wish.

I accepted the overarching recommendation for a new system of separation to be implemented, which was called for by HMIP in their thematic report. As we look to restart aspects of daily life for children in custody I am determined that we do not return to the practices of old. This new, child-centred policy will draw on best practice from other establishments to ensure consistency across the youth estate.

Inappropriate use of these techniques must not happen again. Our response to these findings will help to ensure all children in custody have all the support they need to turn their lives around.

I will place a copy of both reports in the library of both Houses.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS297
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Ministry of Justice
Made on: 02 June 2020
Made by: Robert Buckland (The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice )
Commons

Prison National Framework and Probation Roadmap to Recovery

I am today announcing the Government’s plans for how Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service will start to recover from the impact of Covid-19.

I want to first pay tribute to the hard-working staff across the country who have continued to deliver essential services in spite of the virus. They have been striving tirelessly to make sure those in their care are safe and the public is protected.

The Government has introduced strong measures to save lives and protect the NHS, including reducing face-to-face interactions in both prison and probation, minimising transfers between establishments, shielding the vulnerable, quarantining new entrants to prison and making greater use of technology to enable family contact and supervise offenders in the community.

As a result of the success of these measures, we are formulating plans for how these restrictions can be cautiously rolled back over the coming weeks and months. This will happen within overarching frameworks for prisons and probation which have been published today. These decisions will be guided by public health advice and the best available data.

In prisons there will not be a simple easing of restrictions across the estate but national guidance will ensure there is consistency in decision-making by governors. That means establishments will progress at their own speed, taking full account of their specific circumstances.

We know it will not be a straightforward return to normality. As the Prime Minister has set out, the whole country now needs to prepare for an extended period of living with and managing the threat from the virus.

But over the coming weeks and months, we will restart aspects of daily prison life, such as social visits, education and work, and face-to-face probation supervision, including unpaid work and accredited programmes, with adaptations where necessary to ensure safety.

We will continue to closely monitor the situation, and only proceed once it is safe to do so. Should restrictions need to be re-imposed to ensure the safety of staff and those in our care we will not hesitate to do this.

During this time, we will continue with measures such as providing additional temporary accommodation, and making careful use of our End of Custody Temporary Release powers, to ensure we are able to manage the possibility of any future outbreaks.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS255
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Ministry of Justice
Made on: 21 April 2020
Made by: Robert Buckland (The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice)
Commons

Implementation of the Whiplash Reform Programme

I would like to provide an update on next steps for the Whiplash Reform Programme.

The Government remains firmly committed to implementing these measures which are intended to control the number and cost of whiplash claims. Under the Programme, we will increase the small claims track limit for road traffic accident related personal injury claims to £5,000; as well as introduce a fixed tariff of damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity for whiplash injuries, and a ban on the making or accepting of offers to settle a whiplash claim without a medical report.

The Government indicated on 27 February 2020 that after careful consideration it had decided to implement the whiplash reforms in August 2020. However, it is apparent that the current Covid-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the medical, legal and insurance sectors. While the whiplash reform measures remain important, the Government is committed to acting to ease the disruption and pressures caused by the Covid-19 outbreak where it can.

As a result, the Government has considered representations from key stakeholder groups and agrees that now is not the time to press ahead with significant transformational change to the personal injury sector.

We have therefore decided to delay the implementation of the whiplash reform programme to April 2021. This will enable key sectors of this country’s business to focus their energies on delivering their response to Covid-19, and will allow the Government to focus on delivering key services in the justice area during this difficult time.

The Government will continue to monitor developments in relation to the current pandemic and will, if necessary, make further announcements in regard to the implementation of these important reforms.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS190
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Ministry of Justice
Made on: 24 March 2020
Made by: Robert Buckland (The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice)
Commons

Tenth Annual Report of the UK’s National Preventive Mechanism

The United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT), which the UK ratified in December 2003, requires States Parties to establish a “National Preventive Mechanism” (NPM) to carry out visits to places of detention to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The Government established the UK NPM in March 2009 (Hansard 31 March 2009, Vol. 490, Part No. 57, Column 56WS). The UK NPM is currently composed of 21 scrutiny bodies covering the whole of the UK.

Following previous practice, I have presented to Parliament the 10th NPM’s annual report (Command Paper CP 228). This report covers the period from 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019. I commend the important work that the NPM has carried out over this period and the NPM’s independent role in safeguarding the human rights of detainees across the UK. I also note the NPM’s observations around prisons, children in detention, police custody, immigration detention and court custody. The Government is committed to making prisons places of safety and reform. We are investing an additional £2.75 billion to transform jails, with tough new security measures including x-ray body scanners, and creating 10,000 modern prison places to rehabilitate offenders. Our long-term ambition is to replace Secure Training Centres and Young Offender Institutions with Secure Schools, putting education, healthcare and purposeful activity at the heart of young offender rehabilitation.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS181
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Ministry of Justice
Made on: 05 March 2020
Made by: Robert Buckland (Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice)
Commons

Probation Update

On 6 December 2019 Joseph McCann was given thirty-three life sentences at the Central Criminal Court for a series of violent sexual attacks which he committed between 21 April and 6 May that same year. His victims, ranging from an 11-year-old boy to a 71-year-old woman, each suffered a terrifying ordeal, and I pay tribute to them for the courage which they showed in giving evidence to secure McCann’s conviction. Mr Justice Edis ordered that McCann serve a minimum of thirty years before being eligible for release on parole.

When he started these attacks, McCann was being supervised on licence by the National Probation Service, having been released automatically from prison on 15 February, after he had served half of a three-year determinate sentence for burglary and robbery offences, less time spent on remand. However, an initial management review and then a full Serious Further Offence (SFO) review confirmed that the Court imposed that sentence on 25 January 2018 on the understanding that it would run concurrent to a recall to prison in connection with an indeterminate sentence of Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) which he had received in 2009 for aggravated burglary. However, staff in the National Probation Service (NPS) South East and Eastern Division failed to recall McCann, both when he was remanded into custody on 21 August 2017 and when he received the new sentence on 25 January 2018. Had he been recalled, he would not have been released automatically on 15 February last year; rather, the Parole Board would have conducted a full risk assessment in order to determine whether it was safe re-release him on licence.

There was only a limited amount which could be shared publicly, whilst we awaited the outcome of McCann’s trial, but under Ministerial direction officials re-launched the Recall Policy Framework in early July, giving NPS Divisional Directors and Chief Executives of Community Rehabilitation Companies personal responsibility for ensuring that their staff understood the purpose of recall and the threshold for recall. Then, in January this year, alongside the Recall Policy Framework, new mandatory training on recall for all probation staff was launched together with fresh operational guidance, to support staff in the judgments which they need to make when presented with evidence of an offender’s increased risk or an offender breaching licence conditions.

As a vital part of our service to victims, the NPS offers victims the opportunity to receive a copy of the SFO review, redacted only to fulfil our statutory obligations to protect the rights to privacy of third parties. After McCann had been sentenced on 6 December, NPS Victim Liaison Officers contacted McCann’s victims and asked them whether they would like to meet an Assistant Chief of Probation, in order to have the findings of the SFO review explained to them and to hear the action which has been taken to address the failings which the SFO review sets out. Meetings were then arranged, having regard to the victims’ preferences and availability, the first on 27 February and the final one on 5 March.

Our primary responsibility is towards the victims, which is why I have waited until they have received the full SFO review before announcing further measures.

In order to address the serious concerns which have arisen in this case and to provide wider public assurance, I have decided, exceptionally, to publish a version of the SFO review. This is not the full review, necessarily redacted, which has been shared with McCann’s victims, but it is a thorough and open account of what went wrong in this case and what has been done to put it right.

Further, so we can be absolutely sure that all the lessons of this terrible case have been learned and addressed, I have asked Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector or Probation, Justin Russell, to conduct an independent review. Justin has decided that the review will be in two parts: the first by pursuing specific lines of enquiry in relation to the management of McCann in custody and in the community and by considering whether HMPPS has taken all the organisational action necessary to improve practice in the areas in which it was found wanting, the second to take a wider look on the culture and understanding of recall in the Probation Service. The Chief Inspector has placed the terms of reference for his review here: https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation/about-our-work/inquiriesandreviews/

When I receive the Chief Inspector’s reports, I will consider whether more needs to be done to strengthen probation practice. I am determined to do all that is necessary to protect the public from known offenders. They, and McCann’s victims in particular, deserve no less.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS142
WS
Ministry of Justice
Made on: 05 March 2020
Made by: Robert Buckland (Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice)
Commons

Consultation on Improving the Victims’ Code and the Government Response to the 2019 Consultation: ’Proposals for revising the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime’

Today, I am launching this Government’s consultation on a draft revised Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (the Code) and the response to last year’s consultation on proposed changes to the Code.

The consultation builds on that undertaken last summer and is another major step towards meeting the commitment made in the cross-Government Victims’ Strategy to strengthen the Victims’ Code. It also fulfils our statutory obligations under the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 to publish and consult on a draft version before amending the Code.

We are grateful to victims, stakeholders and the public at large who took time to respond to the initial consultation. We have carefully considered their responses which wholeheartedly endorsed our proposed approach to change. Their views have helped us to create the draft revised version of the Code and have played a significant part in helping us identify the key changes that we believe need to be made to ensure that victims’ rights are set out in a clearer, more coherent and meaningful way for victims.

It is vital that those who are caught up in the criminal justice system understand their rights and the minimum levels of service and information they should receive from criminal justice agencies.

We therefore propose to make a number of changes to the Code, but I want to be clear that the minimum levels of service and information that victims are currently entitled to under the existing Code will be maintained. Rather, the changes are designed to strengthen existing rights and deliver an improved service for victims, helping them to cope better when they may be experiencing trauma in the aftermath of a crime.

Building on the proposals made in the first consultation, key proposals include:

  • Amending the Code’s structure and reducing its complexity, bringing together the current five chapters into one concise Code. We have merged the large number of existing entitlements and set these out as 12 clear overarching rights;
  • While we have retained the existing eligibility categories for access to enhanced support and information, we have made clearer in the draft revised Code that service providers have the discretion to offer enhanced rights to victims who fall outside the scope of the existing categories;
  • For the first time, victims of unrestricted mentally disordered patients in the Victim Contact Scheme will be allocated National Probation Service Victim Liaison Officers bringing greater parity in services for these victims, comparable to those received by victims of restricted patients;
  • Again, for the first time, the draft revised Code specifically sets out the entitlements of victims of Foreign National Offenders; and
  • We have also included practical information about how victims can access services provided by the National Health Service (NHS) and sign-posted them to where they can get help and advice if they are approached by the media.

Alongside our work to refine the Code, we are already looking into how to build victim awareness of the Code and their rights, including creating a short, user friendly overview and an online summary for victims. We are also working with Police and Crime Commissioners and Local Criminal Justice Partnerships to monitor and improve compliance with the Code.

After we have published the revised Code, we will turn to consulting on the detail of a Victims’ Law that will guarantee victims their rights and look to further strengthen enforcement of the Code.

The consultation is available at: https://consult.justice.gov.uk/victim-policy/consultation-on-improving-the-victims-code

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS140
WS
Ministry of Justice
Made on: 03 March 2020
Made by: Robert Buckland (Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice)
Commons

Government response to the Law Commission report Electronic Execution of Deeds

The Government welcomes the Law Commission’s report on Electronic Execution of Documents, and I am very grateful to the Commission for the detailed consideration it has given to this important topic.

I agree with the report’s conclusion that formal primary legislation is not necessary to reinforce the legal validity of electronic signatures. The existing framework makes clear that businesses and individuals can feel confident in using e-signatures in commercial transactions.

I endorse the Commission’s draft legislative provision as set out in the report, as reflecting the Government’s view of the legal position on electronic signatures. They are permissible and can be used in confidence in commercial and consumer documents.

I accept the Law Commission’s recommendation that an Industry Working Group should be established, which the Government should convene. As the report demonstrates, notwithstanding the position in law, there are issues on the security and technology of electronic signatures that require further consideration from suitably experienced experts.

I will ask the Industry Working Group to consider the question of video witnessing of electronic signatures.

The report highlights that technological advances have meant that the status of electronic signatures is also applicable in other fields of law, and I note that while this presents opportunities it also entails challenges. These include ensuring that reform does not have any adverse impact, particularly on vulnerable people.

That is linked to the Law Commission’s recommendation that there should be a wider review of the law of deeds, which I accept. The Government will ask the Law Commission to undertake this review, although the timing for the review will be subject to overall Government and Law Commission priorities given the volume of law reform work which exists.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS135
WS
Ministry of Justice
Made on: 27 February 2020
Made by: Robert Buckland (Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice)
Commons

Implementation of the Whiplash Reform Programme

I would like to provide an update on next steps for the Whiplash Reform Programme.

The Government remains firmly committed to implementing measures to tackle the high number and cost of whiplash claims. The Reform Programme includes the measures in Part 1 of the Civil Liability Act 2018, which will introduce a fixed tariff of damages that a court may award for pain, suffering and loss of amenity for whiplash injuries sustained in a road traffic accident, as well as a ban on the making or accepting of offers to settle a whiplash claim without a medical report. Alongside these, we will be increasing the small claims track (SCT) limit for road traffic related claims to £5,000.

The Government had indicated that we wished to implement these measures from April 2020. The Ministry of Justice has made major progress towards this. It has worked closely with the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB), and with stakeholders representing claimants, including litigants in person, and defendants, on the successful build of a new Official Injury Claim Service (the Service). With the MIB, and using independent research, we have designed the new Service to put the needs of the claimant at its heart. It will provide a simple, user-friendly and efficient online route to provide those affected by road traffic accidents with an opportunity to settle small claims for personal injury without the need for legal representation or to go to court. Where a claimant is not able to make a claim online there will be the option to do so on paper. A dedicated customer contact centre will be available to support all customers through the journey if necessary.

Alongside the MIB, the Ministry of Justice has demonstrated the development of the Service at numerous stakeholder events in London and Manchester, and spoken at stakeholder conferences across the country. We have been clear about the design of the Service, and how we will work to ensure stakeholders from across the claimant and insurance industries are kept aware of, and can feed into, the development of the new platform.

Despite this progress, the Government has given careful consideration to whether implementing the whiplash measures in April remains practical, given the work that remains to be completed. We have listened to the arguments made by both claimant and insurance representative bodies.

As a result, the Government has decided that more time is necessary to make sure the Whiplash Reform Programme is fully ready for implementation. We have always been clear that we need to do this right rather than hastily. In particular, we need to provide sufficient time to work with the Civil Procedure Rules Committee to put in place the supporting rules and pre-action protocol and to give industry sufficient time to prepare their businesses for the changes to how small road traffic personal injury claims are managed. We will also lay the statutory instrument in Parliament to introduce the tariff of damages for whiplash injuries.

In the light of this, the Government has decided to implement these reforms on 1 August 2020. The necessary rules and pre-action protocol, and the statutory tariff, will be published in sufficient time before implementation.

The new Service is designed with all users in mind, and will be simple and easy to operate. Currently motor insurers accept liability for damages in the majority of whiplash claims after road traffic accidents, and we do not expect insurer behaviour to change post implementation. However, there will be occasions when insurers do not accept liability, and claimants will need to be able to resolve liability disputes. Initially, the Government proposed to include a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution to enable liability and quantum claims to be adjudicated. However, in the event, no practicable solution which gave sufficient coverage of ADR for claims could be found. As a result, ADR will no longer be part of the online Service. Instead, we will ensure access to justice by developing bespoke processes to enable litigants to go to court to establish liability.

The increase in the small claims track limit will not apply to those who have been termed “vulnerable road-users”, for example, motor-cyclists, cyclists and pedestrians, and who in any event will not subject our whiplash tariff provisions.

The increase in the small claims track limit will also not apply to children or protected parties. This will enable the Government to test the processes and ensure that we have them correct before considering further extension.

Because these claimants will not be subject to the new small claims limit, they will also not be subject to the new pre-action protocol and so will not have access to the online Service. As such, they will not be able to source their own medical report via the online Service, which is statutorily required to settle claims for whiplash injuries. Therefore, until they can access the online Service, the normal track for claims by children and protected parties which include a whiplash injury, will be the fast track and these claims will not be allocated to the small claims track. This means that, for now, these claimants will be able to instruct a legal representative who may obtain a medical report on their behalf and their costs of legal representation will remain recoverable. This decision has been taken for no reason other than that we consider it the fairest and most straightforward approach to ensuring, for now, that these claimants can obtain the medical report which they must obtain before they can settle their claim.

It is absolutely right that this Government continues its commitment to tackle the high number and costs of whiplash claims, and the impact these have on the cost of motor insurance premiums for hard working families. Delivering these reforms remains a key Government priority. We will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure that all are sufficiently prepared for the new measures on 1 August 2020.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS127
WS
Ministry of Justice
Made on: 30 January 2020
Made by: Robert Buckland (The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice)
Commons

Informal Justice and Home Affairs post-Council statement

The Informal Justice and Home Affairs Council under the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the EU took place on 23 and 24 January 2020 in Zagreb.

I represented the UK on Justice Day. My colleague Rt Hon Brandon Lewis MP, Minister for Security, attended the meeting for Interior Day.

Justice Day began with a discussion on the future of EU Justice and Home Affairs in the fields of freedom, security and justice, with a focus on the following justice policies: fundamental rights and the rule of law; civil judicial cooperation; judicial training and criminal justice.

Over lunch, Ministers considered the role of the European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters, recognising its importance in facilitating judicial cooperation.

Ministers then discussed judicial training. I provided an overview of judicial training in the UK, including the independent role of the judiciary in assessing the required learning and development. I highlighted that our approach to providing training for the judiciary is in accordance with the separation of powers, in that training is under the control of the judiciary and not the Government.

The first agenda item of Interior day discussed the Future of EU Justice and Home Affairs Activity, focusing on the Home Affairs area. The Minister for Security intervened to highlight issues relating to end-to-end encryption, drawing attention to the open letter to Facebook from the Home Secretary.

The Minister for Security also encouraged Member States to ensure that the voice of their law enforcement agencies and Interior Ministries was heard during discussions on the EU’s negotiating mandate for a future internal security agreement with the UK.

Interior Ministers then discussed implementation of legislation on the interoperability of EU JHA databases.

Over lunch, Ministers discussed tackling organised immigration crime in the Western Balkans, including a proposal to create a regional Western Balkans system similar to the Eurodac database (stores fingerprint and biometric data of asylum applicants).

The afternoon session focused on implementation of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, which the UK does not participate in.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS80
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