Dominic Raab is Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary.
When the Prime Minister put his new Cabinet together almost four months ago, he tasked me, the Home Secretary and the Attorney General with leading the Government’s fight against crime. The police, prosecutors and courts each rightly have operational independence from each other. But, the public simply expect us to keep them safe, stand up for victims and bring criminals to justice – so we’ve put renewed energy into a joined-up team effort.
The Home Secretary is recruiting 20,000 extra police officers by the end of this Parliament – and she is already more than halfway to meeting that target. More police mean we can do more for the victims of crime. So, we’ve secured extra funding for more Independent Sexual Violence Advisers and Independent Domestic Violence Advisers – to reduce the rate at which demoralised victims drop out of the criminal justice system.
Next, our new Victims’ Law will make sure their voice is heard, and they see justice done. We think it’s reasonable to expect prosecutors to communicate directly with victims before charging decisions are made, and for the voices of local neighbourhoods to be heard more loudly by the judge in cases that affect them, through community impact statements.
Amplifying the voice of victims is not just the right thing to do. As a practical operational matter, it also strengthens our prospects of securing convictions. And when they are convicted, criminals should do more to right their wrongs, so we’re expanding visible community payback schemes, and we will raise the victim surcharge and allocate the proceeds to support victim services.
Too often, victims fall between cracks in the system. So, last month we published the first Criminal Justice Scorecards, to shine a light on the performance at every stage of the criminal justice system – and track progress. There is a general crime scorecard, and one tracking progress in rape cases.
On the ground, one of the key measures is Operation Soteria, which promotes more intensive coordination between police and prosecutors, re-prioritising efforts into investigating the behaviour of those accused of rape, and avoiding an excessive focus on the credibility of those reporting it. The Home Secretary has expanded the trials from five police forces to cover 19 areas, as we sharpen our operational capacity to deal with this heinous crime. Likewise, the Attorney General has played a pivotal role in bringing 500 new prosecutors into the Crown Prosecution Service, as well as 100 rape and sexual assault specialists.
Beyond investigation and prosecution, we’re reinforcing the robustness of our sentencing – ending the automatic release of dangerous offenders at the half-way point of a prison sentence, increasing sentences for child cruelty, and enacting Harper’s Law to raise sentences for those who kill emergency service workers in the course of their duty.
Next, we’re making sure that prisons protect the public and offer a second chance to offenders to turn their lives around. So, we’re building 20,000 extra prison places by the mid-2020s. But we recognise that most offenders will be released at some point, so we’ve published a White Paper setting out a new strategy for the prison regime.
It starts with zero-tolerance on drugs getting into prisons, and assessing offenders for any addiction the moment they arrive, so that treatment plans – including expanded use of drug recovery wings and a greater focus on abstinence – can be put in place straightaway.
For each new inmate, we’ll assess their literacy, numeracy and qualifications, so they can access the learning they need to progress during their time inside, which can go a long way to giving them the hope of a better life once they’re released. And a new Prisoner Education Service will increase vocational skills to raise offenders’ job prospects.
That’s crucial because we know that work reduces re-offending, so I’m driving a step-change getting offenders into work. A new digital tool will match candidates to roles and employment advisers will support prisoners to find work. And we’ll make sure prisons adapt to enable more employers to work with offenders – as they’ve already done at HMP High Down where suitably vetted inmates can work in a marketing call centre.
As release approaches for an inmate, our resettlement passports will bring together key information and practical services offenders need to help turn their backs on crime for good – simple things we may take for granted, from a CV to identification and a bank account. And drug and work programmes will be more closely linked to support services in the community when they are released.
This strategic vision will be backed up with key performance indicators for prison governors and league tables to spread best practice and give trailblazing governors the autonomy to get on with the job of turning offenders’ lives around.
Finally, we’re consulting on overhauling our human rights framework – and replacing the Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights – to strengthen our longstanding freedoms, and curb abuses of the justice system.
In particular, I want to support the Home Secretary’s efforts to remove those unlawfully here. Our reforms will make it easier to remove Foreign National Offenders who scupper deportation orders with elastic claims to the ‘right to family life’, claims which go well beyond anything the architects of the European Convention on Human Rights had in mind – and account for around 70 per cent of successful human rights appeals.
From removing foreign criminals to supporting victims in bringing criminals to justice, the Prime Minister’s crime-fighting team is determined to build back a better, safer and fairer country for the future.