Criminal justice reform lecture

Speech by Rt Hon Damian Green MP Minister of State for Policing and Criminal Justice on criminal justice reform.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
The Rt Hon Damian Green MP

Speaking to you here presents me with something of a double whammy. We’re hosted by Reform, one of the leaders in the discussion about how best to deliver public services. And I’m speaking to you: the people who best know the sharp end of that delivery in the criminal justice system. So the expertise and experience in the room threatens to overwhelm. I’m coming before you as a Minister who’s just got his feet under the desk. Or, given my unusual dual position, desks, one in Marsham Street, the other in Petty France. Who said men can’t multitask?

But my dual role has an underlying point. My thinking has been informed by my early realisation that, in fact, we cannot just talk about reform of the criminal justice system as though it was a single entity: it is, of course, a system of many parts and players and relies on the collaboration of all those that work within it as well as the co-operation of victims, witnesses, police, lawyers and other experts to operate effectively.

I’ve been Policing and Criminal Justice Minister for some 5 months now. The nature of my dual role grants an opportunity to join up the criminal justice system (CJS). We can no longer have 2 directions of travel, 1 criminal justice and another crime and policing; we must reform in a coherent way with a shared purpose. A shared purpose that supports and protects victims, liberates and trusts professionals and helps us meet our central, overriding objective: to cut crime.

There is much that we can be proud of in our criminal justice system. From those investigating a crime right through to those involved in sentencing and rehabilitating offenders, it is characterised by dedicated professionals who work hard to deliver for the public that they serve, sometimes under considerable pressure and, in the current financial climate, whilst making significant savings.

We have a judiciary that is, rightly, proud of its role and independence.

Our system is lauded internationally as one which is fair and just.

And we are seeing crime fall as our police and prison reforms bed-in. Since coming into power, we have kick-started an ambitious programme of police reform, so we can have a force fit for the 21st Century. The new National Crime Agency will crack down on serious organised crime, protect children and young people and make sure our borders are secure. The College of Policing will drive up professionalism across the force. And the newly elected police and crime commissioners will make police forces accountable, ultimately, to the taxpayer, and make sure that the needs of the community are met.

The Justice Secretary is also looking at transforming rehabilitation and putting education at the heart of youth justice so that the same hardcore of people are not coming back into custody time and time again. Looking to make sure that the system is actually turning lives around and setting people on the right path. But today the spotlight of reform needs to move on, and turn to the criminal justice system.

There are elements of the system about which we can be proud. What we can’t be proud of are:

  • the 6 months that even basic cases are taking to get through the system
  • the failure to exploit technology which could save thousands of police man hours
  • the more-than-half of cases in the Magistrates Courts that don’t go ahead on the day they were meant to

To the wider public who come into contact with it, as witnesses, defendants or jurors, but most crucially, as victims, this is a system that often does not deliver the level of service they expect, want or deserve.

Of course, these are not new problems. 160 years ago Dickens gave Bleak House the backdrop of Jarndyce V Jarndyce, the interminable court case that droned on and on.

“This scarecrow of a suit”, Dickens wrote, “has, in course of time, become so complicated that no man alive knows what it means”.

He was, of course, parodying in order to attack the chancery court, but in describing a case that was characterised by delay and confusion modern readers who have been victims or witnesses in the criminal system might just have some sense of recognition. The world has speeded up beyond recognition since Dickens wrote Bleak House. The criminal courts have, to be polite, made less progress.

So, today I want to talk about some of the problems that I think exist in the current system. These are the lack of a clear, common purpose and accountability; the failure to exploit technology; and the unforgivable delays that all too often characterise our system.

In this lecture I’m going to focus on these areas of concern, but I’m also going to talk about where improvement has been made, and how we can build on this good work to go further.

I have great admiration for the police, magistrates, solicitors, barristers, judges, Crown Prosecution Service, probation and court staff, prison officers and all the voluntary and private sector providers that make up the CJS. But despite that admiration I am determined that improvements must be made, in the public interest. I will be, just as I have already said to the police, a candid friend: supportive when needed but critical where necessary.

I’m also going to discuss the 3 principles that we will apply to reform: the need for accountability, transparency and professionalism.

And finally, I will set out my vision for the future, because we need to be clear: we don’t reform just for its own sake. We don’t even want speed and efficiency simply because speed and efficiency are inherently good things to have. We want change because we want an improved criminal justice system for all, delivering its overriding purpose to cut crime.

One of the things that a new Minister brings is a fresh pair of eyes. For a start, ignorance is helpful because you are allowed to ask shocking questions. Some of what I found is indeed shocking.

In July the Ministry of Justice published a paper, ‘Swift and Sure Justice: The government’s Plans for Reform of the Criminal Justice System’. In it we outlined our belief that too often the public view the criminal justice system as complex and remote and that it is not sufficiently responsive to their needs. Let me deal with the three problems that disturb me, and what we need to do about them.

The first problem that I want to discuss is the lack of a clear, common purpose and accountability across the CJS.

I have already said that, too often, the various agencies don’t pull together to meet what should be shared outcomes. In fact, we’ve talked with practitioners across the CJS who confirmed that, while agencies have a broad understanding of the common goals of the CJS, there isn’t a specific, single, shared view of what these are, or the contribution each agency makes to achieving them. Within those diverse outcomes there are targets, performance indicators and measures in any one agency that can run directly counter to the goals of another.

For example both the police and CPS have complained that their old performance measures were not aligned. The police were focused on detections. The CPS were focused on successful prosecutions. But that meant that a whole pile of cases with no realistic prospect of conviction were getting all the way to court, and then being dropped by the CPS, rather than being stopped earlier in the process.

The old way of driving better performance was to mandate targets from the centre, but I’ve just described the distorting effect that this can have. Even cross CJS targets rely on proper cooperation and buy-in across the system; something that can only happen if we instill a collective ownership and shared ambition.

In the spring we’re going to publish our action plan to set out how we are going to deliver change. And central to that will be a set of shared outcomes to ensure there is a clear and common purpose; something which is currently lacking.

So what should those shared outcomes be? We’ve discussed this at length with the agencies themselves, and I’m pleased to say we are agreed on a shared ambition for the justice system. That ambition should be:

  • to reduce crime
  • to reduce reoffending
  • to punish offenders
  • to protect the public
  • to provide victims with reparation
  • to improve public confidence, and crucially that of victims and witnesses
  • to ensure that the system is fair and just

I am keenly aware that improvements made in one area can be to the detriment of other areas, or indeed a change in one part of the system may benefit another part. For example, improvements to the way that the police handle disclosure of evidence may lead to a far stronger case for the CPS to present. I want to see much more of a focus on working together with one common purpose, so that the whole system responds to tackle problems and find solutions, regardless of where the immediate financial benefits lie.

In order to give life to these outcomes I am setting up a new Criminal Justice Board made up of the operational leaders from across the system. Members of the Board will include a senior judge, a representative for the newly established Policing and Crime Commissioners, and the CEO from the new College of Policing.

In order to ensure we do not fall foul of past attempts at reform, I want to establish clear cross CJS leadership, tasked with addressing the problems I am setting out today, but across the whole system.

The new board will also support me in setting and delivering the new action plan in the spring. I am determined that it will not be another talking shop or target setting body, but rather will get to grips with the operational barriers and lack of coordination that frustrate progress. What’s more, it will be one of the ways that I want to drive up accountability for making end-to-end improvements in the performance of the whole CJS. I want to make sure that it’s no longer possible for one person in the chain simply to say ‘it’s someone else’s fault’. We will all, as members of the board, own the problems, accept responsibility for our own successes and failures, and act collectively to find solutions that work for everyone. The Board meets for the first time next week.

So we can all be clear on the why. But I’d like to turn now to the how. The second problem that I’d like to talk about will be familiar to many who work in the system: the failure to exploit technology.

Anyone who compares the way the criminal justice system works with any other modern workplace will be immediately struck by the terrible failure to take advantage of all the benefits that technology can bring. If you compare basic processes that take place across the country all the time, from booking a holiday to downloading music, to those that take place in the CJS the difference is stark. The amount of paperwork and the delays that this causes is simply unacceptable, with endless hours wasted repeatedly filling in forms and preparing for cases. We have been able to undertake complex financial transactions online for years now: we can renew car insurance and set up bank accounts online with the click of a button. Yet in the CJS we can only just transfer cases digitally. The police are still wasting far too much of their time doing data entry and photocopying and not protecting the public.

The aim for the CJS must be a single case file that progresses electronically right through the system from police to court and then prison or probation without constant re-keying of information. But many CJS practitioners have told us that the police, CPS and courts are using incompatible technology, even for simple things such as viewing CCTV evidence, which is provided in a myriad of formats. In a discussion with CJS staff, a police officer told us this was his biggest problem:

“I can’t transfer it,” he said, “and they don’t accept that. As an officer when I’m presenting it I sit down that evening and write a step by step account of what I can see.”

Again, too much wasted time. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) have identified 7 points of data transfer between agencies throughout the process of offence to conviction, and there will be many more within agencies themselves, so I want the new Criminal Justice Board to look at what improvements we can make here. Much more work needs to be done with the defence to ensure secure email becomes the primary method of communication with other CJS agencies. I’m pleased that over half of all contract holders with the Legal Services Commission have secure e-mail accounts, but usage is still low. That is why we’re looking at future contracts for criminal legal aid services which will  require firms who want them to work digitally. The rest of the world went digital years ago. It is time for the criminal justice system to catch up.

Our failure to pick up on the opportunities offered by technology is having unacceptable consequences. When I was in Cardiff last year I heard about the absurdity of transferring prisoners from the prison to the court, which were across the road from each other.  These transfers are expensive and risky. And every time I talk to police officers they tell me about the amount of time they waste hanging around at court, often on rest days, waiting to give evidence.  When cases are adjourned, as they frequently are, they are then required to come back and repeat the process again; all in all a huge waste of time, and more importantly, a huge waste of the valuable resource of the officer.

Both of these problems can be improved simply by using video links. These allow defendants and witnesses to give evidence remotely, which can save time and - most importantly for me - alleviate the stress on victims. We’ve made a good start. In the first half of last year more than 27,000 prison to court video hearings were heard. And since we published the White Paper we’ve launched 48 pilots looking at a range of improvements from more flexible working to implementing over twenty police station to court video links.

Earlier this year I went to Sutton Coldfield to see for myself this Live Links technology that allows police officers to give evidence in court from a police station.  In the last year over 300 police officer hours have been saved in this way, but this is just a tiny fraction of its potential.

So the national promise of Live Links is huge. It is an opportunity to improve efficiency, improve the delivery of justice and improve the experience for the police, witnesses and victims.  

Throughout the CJS better use of technology could revolutionise the way business is done, and change is already happening: all magistrates’ courts can receive case files digitally, CPS prosecutors are increasingly using tablets to present cases and the police and CPS are transferring more information online. But there is clearly much more to do.

I want to see much greater use of this technology over the next eleven months as an ambitious programme of work lays solid foundations for a truly digital courts service in England and Wales in 2013.

The third problem I want to discuss is the oldest complaint of all: the long delays that all too often characterise the criminal justice system. Delays not helped by our inability to manage the whole process more effectively in order to meet the demand placed on the system.

We all know that justice delayed is justice denied. What we should all want to see is justice delivered. Bringing cases to trial more quickly, and then resolving them swiftly is absolutely essential for victims and for witnesses. For that matter, I also want offenders to be faced quickly with the consequences of their actions. But that’s also better for those working in the system who themselves complain about the delays which occur from end to end, for example, over half the time taken in a case is between the offence taking place and the defendant being charged.

We know that the average time from offence to completion for indictable cases or those which can be tried in the magistrates or Crown Courts is 149 days, and this rises to 177 days for summary motoring cases. That means cases like burglary take almost 6 months from the time when the offence is committed to when they are completed.

And even those criminal cases taking the shortest amount of time - theft and handling of stolen goods - took nearly three months to be resolved. In fact, some defendants will have spent more time waiting for a verdict or sentence than they will spend serving the sentence given.

The delays become even starker when compared across the country. Even taking into account any variation in case mix for cases that end in the Magistrates’ Court there is a three week gap between the North East, the best performing region, and Wales the worst. And for those that end in the Crown Court that difference is 10 weeks. That means that in some parts of the country, such as the South East, victims, witnesses and the agencies involved are being made to wait well over two months longer than those elsewhere for a resolution. We must do more to share innovation and best practice, not just within each agency, but across the CJS.

The picture gets no better when we consider more serious offences. In 2011 the average time taken to deal with a sexual offender from offence to conviction was nearly 500 days and almost 2 years for rape cases. Yes, these are complex, difficult cases, often involving detailed and forensic evidence, and we need to be better at encouraging and supporting victims to report sexual offences and to come forward more quickly than they do. But this will be helped by the criminal justice system itself getting better at supporting victims through the process of giving evidence and prioritising serious cases through to completion so that victims don’t have to re-live the crime for as long as they currently do.  

Part of the problem is the fact that we’re not managing trials as we should be. We know that practitioners report users facing long delays before a case is listed.  
But that is only part of the story: trials not proceeding on time: offenders pleading guilty at the last moment; cases being dropped altogether. These are some of the things that most irritate the people who work in the CJS. But most importantly, they are upsetting for victims who go through the emotional ordeal of the build-up to a court case, only to see it cancelled at the last minute. This cannot be right.

The parties involved may diligently prepare their cases listed for trial on the assumption that they will be going ahead on the day. But of the trials listed for hearing in the Magistrates’ Court only 44% went to trial as planned. Let me draw out the implication of that issue: the majority of Magistrates’ Court trials don’t go ahead on the day they are planned to. If every day only 44% of trains left the stations, or 44 per cent of planned hospital operations took place there would be a national uproar. Yet every day this happens in the Magistrates’ courts.

When I was told this statistic I realised that this is not seen as shocking by those working in the system. But it is. It is simply not good enough. So I want to see a far higher proportion of effective trials that go ahead the first time that they are listed. Ineffective trials should be the exception, not the rule.

Almost 40% of the cases that don’t go ahead were recorded as ‘cracked’, which means that they don’t proceed at all. In just over half of these cases this is because the defendant pleads guilty at the last minute to the original charge, which means that the case is concluded on the day, but much time and money has been wasted in the process. But it could also mean that the case has been dropped, perhaps because other key witnesses have not turned up or the evidence expected has not materialised.

And because so many trials don’t go ahead as planned, the courts list more than 1 trial to go ahead at the same time, in some cases listing 2 or 3 at once, in order to avoid courts sitting empty when trials don’t proceed. This approach is not always successful, and in treating the symptom of the problem we have caused another, with both the defence and prosecution preparing and waiting for trials that are unlikely to come before magistrates or a judge the day they are first listed. The incentives are now mixed - victims, witnesses and advocates who have prepared their case fully will want the trial to go ahead, whilst others, burdened with a heavy caseload of cases unlikely to run, will come to rely on over listing practices: this is clearly not satisfactory.

Imagine that you are a witness in such a case or a victim waiting for justice. Victims and witnesses often report waiting hours to give evidence outside a court room. Imagine to then be told that the case isn’t going ahead that day, or in some cases, is not going ahead at all. Some victims and witnesses may have come to court several times already and been turned away because the case has been adjourned for lack of court time. Even where their case does eventually go ahead and the witness finally gets to give evidence, such delays hardly demonstrate an ability to provide swift or efficient justice. It must be difficult to see this as a purely administrative practice when the needs and time of the victim or witness have not been taken into consideration.

This is a particular difficulty for the police who, as I mentioned, regularly complain to me, rightly, that they waste too much time waiting to give evidence in cases that don’t go ahead, requiring them to come back another day, and then potentially another, and start the process all over again. This is not what they joined the force for, and it is not what the public expect them to be doing. It is one of the clearest examples of the knock-on effect of actions by one agency on another and I am determined to see it stopped.

These delays are no good either for offenders. Take, for example, someone stealing to support a drug habit. Do we suppose that in the time it takes them to come to court they would somehow get clean without support or stop offending without addressing the cause of their criminality? Of course not. So the longer the process takes the more victims of crime we allow and the more opportunities to turn people’s lives around we miss.

The solution must be to tackle the root cause of trials not going ahead in the first place. I want practitioners across the CJS to work together to prevent these delays, to improve the proportion of successful trials and to deliver a system that meets our shared outcomes.

There are some gleams of light. As an example of what we can achieve with leadership and a joined-up approach some progress is already being made. The Early Guilty Plea and Stop Delaying Justice schemes, led by the judiciary, are beginning to make a real difference. And the 48 flexible court pilots now underway are starting to show how we could better manage the estate in the interests of all those who use it. That’s a start on which we must build. I will work with the judiciary and all Criminal Justice agencies to consider how, together, we can solve the problems which lead to over listing of cases, so that courts can stop the practice of over listing, in the knowledge that everyone involved in cases list for trial will be ready to go ahead that day.

And on delays more generally, our focus must not be limited to just a quicker response to serious crime. In the Swift and Sure White Paper we set out the need for change, and we are now beginning to address inefficiency. As part of this work, in December I asked a group of cross CJS practitioners to analyse one type of case (traffic offences) and produce a new, streamlined model for dealing with them.  

The CJS deals with over half a million traffic cases every year. They take almost six months from offence to completion, on average requiring more than one hearing. Yet these cases are frequently neither the most serious, nor the most complex that the system deals with.  

I set the challenge that it should become the norm for these cases to be dealt with swiftly. In response the group brought together practitioners and policy makers from across the CJS. Together, they identified specific and deliverable improvements which could be made to driver identification, information accuracy and use of courts. Taken together these improvements should make the experience of road traffic cases swifter and better for all involved. But this work also identified that we can go further; the vast majority of these cases are dealt with in the absence of the defendant, but they are handled in the same way as a theft or an assault case. Looking at ways to deal with these cases more appropriately will potentially free up time and allow the system to focus its attention on those offences which can cause serious problems for communities.

This approach brings people together to focus on a particular problem that needs fixing. It can create real momentum and I will use it in the future where appropriate to drive genuine change.

I want to make clear here that I see defence lawyers as central to reform of the criminal justice system. Too often in the past, I’m happy to admit we haven’t involved these lawyers sufficiently in our reforms, despite their being an integral part of the Criminal Justice System.

I would like to give the defence the opportunity to offer their expertise, in recognition of the fact that they know as well as anyone working in the CPS or the courts what the issues are, and will have good ideas on how to make the system more efficient. I want to discuss with them what they can do differently, what we might do to help them and how the whole system can improve.

We have already begun to engage defence practitioners in diagnosing some of the inefficiencies in the system and, as I develop my strategy and action plan, I want to hear from the defence directly as we look at solutions. That’s why I’ve invited a group of defence practitioners to work with me to give me their suggestions and proposals over the next month or 2.

In particular I know they will bring ideas and insight to our plans to improve disclosure of evidence, to reduce delays and to make sure more cases go ahead as planned. And, despite our recent progress through initiatives such as the early guilty plea scheme, the defence will have ideas on how to build on these successes and keep up the momentum.

So that is my diagnosis of the problems: the lack of a common vision, the failure to exploit technology and the unacceptable delays to the system. I’ve given a flavour of what we’re already doing to respond, and what we need to do in future.

In setting out our new action plan there are a few key principles that will be central to making progress.

These are:

  • accountability
  • transparency
  • professionalism

I’ve talked already about the need for a common purpose to help break down the silos between agencies that can too often frustrate progress and lead to many of the problems that I have discussed. I’ve also talked about the accountability gap that exists. So, one of the key principles in delivering change must be improved accountability.

We will only make progress if people take responsibility for making improvements and can be properly held to account for their performance. This is, of course, a challenge in a system made up of so many parts with so many competing tensions. One of the early challenges I will be setting the new Criminal Justice Board will be to get to grips with this and become a vehicle for accountability across the piece.

In our reforms to the police we’ve made improving accountability a golden thread that runs through the changes. Police and Crime Commissioners will hold their forces to account, whilst themselves being accountable at the ballot box. Crime mapping and improved transparency push information out to the public so that they can make informed decisions; and through the new College of Policing we’re improving the professionalism of officers so that, rather than chasing targets, they can be freed to take responsibility for their own actions.

Simply changing structures is not sufficient, and holding agencies to account for meeting targets does not work: we can only improve accountability by also enhancing transparency and professionalism. 

So, the second principle we will apply to reform is that of transparency, a concept that featured heavily in the Swift and Sure paper.

Across the public sector this government is stripping back targets. Rather than assuming that Whitehall knows best we have taken radical steps to empower citizens with information, and nowhere is this clearer than in the introduction of crime maps on police.uk. Since its launch 2 years ago there have been over 53 million visits to the site, which continues to receive between 2- and 3-hundred thousand hits a day, as people seek information about crime in their areas. And the lesson of the site has been that once given access to the information people want more. More detail about where the crimes took place, more detail about the types of crime and more detail about what happened to offenders responsible.

So we know the value of transparency as a tool with which the public can hold agencies, and government, to account. If we can expose the workings of the CJS, really enable those involved and the wider public to see the processes in play, the actions taken, the decisions made, then we will truly start to expose more problems and challenges than I have identified today, and expose more detail about those that I have. It is only through understanding the issues, shining light into the workings of the machinery of the CJS, that we will understand where we can make things better and where we can join up across the system to the advantage of those in it and those who rely it.

And I believe that the drive to greater transparency will also reap an additional reward: an improvement in public confidence. Our criminal justice system is all too often impenetrable for the general public; including those who find themselves witnesses or victims and partly this is a result of some of those old fashioned practices that I referred to earlier. Practices that were abandoned in other workplaces decades ago.

One of the ways we want to increase transparency to improve public confidence is by allowing broadcasting in court. The Crime and Courts Bill, currently working its way through Parliament, will allow for this, starting with the broadcasting of judgments and sentencing decisions in the Court of Appeal.

In a recent debate in Parliament Jack Straw, the former Lord Chancellor, questioned whether greater transparency in courts might actually reduce confidence, as though the system has something to hide. I think Jack was joking, but just to be clear, I reject this idea. Today I have spoken of a number of problems, but overall, as I said at the outset, this is a system filled to the brim with hard-working, dedicated people and I think that the public seeing their work, and them feeling the spotlight of transparency upon them, can only be positive for all concerned.

If one of the central ways we will increase accountability is through transparency of decisions made in the system it is essential that, at the same time, we support better decision making. So the third principle is more professionalism.

The problem with the old solutions to many of the problems I have talked about today was that they relied on targets; on looking over the shoulders of professionals to make sure that they met the outputs that central government and the Whitehall machine thought that they should meet.

I am clear that in setting up the new Criminal Justice Board we will not be returning to these bad old days. The only way that we can deliver our outcomes is by the centre trusting professionals and each agency trusting the professionalism of those working in their partner components.

So I will be asking the Board, made up of senior leaders, what we can do to enhance and support the professionalism of those working in the CJS so that they use their discretion to get things right for victims, witnesses and the broader public every time.

Implementing these principles means delivering justice in a different way.  

It means a much sharper focus on victims and their priorities, rather than the priorities of lawyers or offenders. It has been said many times but I am determined to make it a reality.

It means integrating technology to radically change the way we operate, saving time and money.

And it means maintaining the high standard of justice that our criminal justice system delivers, but doing it much more quickly, ensuring greater confidence from all those involved.

Like any system, we are only as strong as the weakest part; when one of us fails we all fail, and we fail most when we don’t work together. So the biggest change I want is to see the CJS operating as a single system with a common purpose to help reduce crime.

Under this government, overall crime has fallen by 10%. This is, of course, good news. But we have not seen the same drop across the board for all crime types, and the effectiveness of the CJS in bringing these cases to justice varies a great deal, depending on the type of crime and where you are in the country. There are valid explanations for this: for some crimes, the victim or witness may be much less likely to come forward, the perpetrator may be more difficult to detect, the complexity of the case has a bearing.

With these principles as our base we can implement reforms that will deliver the outcomes we want the whole system to work towards. The challenge for the new Criminal Justice Board, and the system as a whole, will be to keep focused on these outcomes.

I’ve talked a lot today about the outcomes that will form our shared ambition, namely to reduce crime, to reduce reoffending, to punish offenders, to protect the public, to provide victims with reparation, to improve confidence, and to ensure that the system is fair and just.

But what will focus on these shared outcomes achieve? My vision is for a swift and sure criminal justice system that helps cut crime and that the public, especially victims and witnesses, have confidence in. We need one that understands that justice delayed is justice denied. And we need certainty built into that system, including the strong likelihood that when a victim, witness, defendant or police officer is told that a case is going ahead on a certain day at a certain time it does.  

Now, I don’t pretend that reform will be easy or quick. I don’t expect that we will radically overhaul the system overnight and solve all the problems immediately. But this acceptance of reality should not be taken as a licence for the wheels of reform to grind as slowly as they have previously.

As I have said, in order to ensure continual progress, in the spring I will be publishing my plan for setting out the pace, scope and scale of the reforms that we want to see.  

Of course, in the current climate reform cannot just be about improving the service the public receives; it must seek to deliver better value for money for them too.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this speech, there is an overriding need, throughout government, to reduce spending; doing more for less. As we have seen in other parts of government, this can only be achieved through reform and better ways of working. Across the police, for example, we have seen transformation in ways of working which, despite falling budgets, has seen crime continue to fall.

Whatever the financial situation we should be reforming to deliver a better service. But the reduction in public spending today is a spur to greater action; an opportunity for a radical rethink of the way the criminal justice system performs its core functions. Doing things more efficiently, reducing delays, better management of demand, in short, delivering a better service for the public, need not be any more expensive, in fact should be cheaper, than the old ways of working.

The Swift and Sure White Paper set out clear ambitions, and today I have built on those with my observations of the system to date, and I am clear: reform is essential if we are to deliver our shared outcomes for the public.

What I have learnt from my short experience so far of reforming our criminal justice system is that you have to run very hard to move forward at all. So we now need to run ever harder and faster to make the progress that we need, and that victims, practitioners and the public deserve.  

There will be forces of inaction and vested interest that will seek to slow our pace, but by working together, with a shared purpose, I am confident we will make progress.

Thank you.

Published 19 February 2013