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Cameron sets out justice priorities

13 July 2010

Prime minister David Cameron set out the government’s top five priorities for justice during a visit to the Ministry of Justice today, with reform of sentencing top of the list.

This was followed by the “rehabilitation revolution”, the courts and legal aid, reform of the prison estate and civil liberties. Mr Cameron’s visit coincided with the launch of the MoJ’s draft “structural reform plan”.

Justice secretary Ken Clarke outlined many of the government’s key changes in a speech at King’s College, London, at the end of last month (see 30 June).

He attacked the use of short sentences and said “banging up” people without trying to change them was reminiscent of Victorian England.

The government has already announced a drastic programme of magistrate and county court closures and committed itself to further cuts in legal aid. Jonathan Djanogly, the legal aid and civil justice minister, provoked anger last week by axing training grants to legal aid firms.

Under the reform plan, the government would consult on sentencing reforms this autumn as part of a rehabilitation Green Paper and introduce legislation in November 2011.

The Green Paper would incorporate options for contracting out rehabilitation to private and voluntary sector providers.

Meanwhile the Prisoners Earnings Act 1996, allowing governors to deduct earnings from prisoners would be implemented, so that the first deductions could be made in March 2011.

Under the reforms to the courts system, sentencing data for every court would be published in an “open and standardised format” by October this year.

A commission to investigate the creation of a UK Bill of Rights will be set up early in 2011, under deputy prime minister Nick Clegg.

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