UK Liberty

Elected justice commissioners

Posted in law and order, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on November 12, 2008

Yesterday in the Commons:

Douglas Carswell (Harwich, Conservative)  | Hansard source

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide for the replacement of police authorities with elected justice commissioners; to make provisions regarding the duties and powers of justice commissioners; and for connected purposes.

Louise Casey, the Government’s Home Office adviser, is right: there has indeed been a collapse in trust in the criminal justice system. The Government’s former respect tsar is right to be concerned about surveys that show that only one third of people still have great confidence in the police. Louise Casey is not alone in recognising that public confidence in the administration of public justice is beginning to break down. The Secretary of State for Justice said recently that the justice system needed to “get tough” with criminals, and there has been no shortage of Home Secretaries and Ministers talking about the need to make the criminal justice system work, or of Westminster insiders talking about the need to get tough on crime. The trouble is that that is all it is—just talk.

Politicians are largely powerless to fight crime, and they are not able to make the criminal justice system work for those who elect them. We might fight elections with lots of talk about fighting crime, but policing today is almost entirely outside democratic control, and no one, least of all those in this Chamber, likes to admit it. At election time, national or local, the candidates of all major parties wearily pledge to “put more bobbies on the beat”, but they promise something that it is not in their gift to deliver. The deployment of police personnel is wholly at the discretion of chief constables, and the only voice that elected representatives have is as a minority on police authorities, which is perhaps one of the many reasons why voters, hearing the ritualistic promise of more police but never seeing much change, have increasingly given up on the whole charade.

Today, I propose a different approach. Let us imagine that local people, not Home Office officials, determined the priorities of the police where we lived. What if we, as local residents, could hold our local chief constable directly to account for fighting crime? Let us suppose that the justice commissioners we elected to our county or city decided how to deploy resources, and had to decide whether to spend their budgets on more patrols or on more speed cameras, and then stood for re-election on the basis of their record. …

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