Nick Herbert's speech to the Policy Exchange

The minister gave this speech on criminal justice reform to the Policy Exchange on 23 June 2010. This speech is as delivered.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
The Rt Hon Lord Herbert of South Downs CBE PC

I would like to thank Policy Exchange for inviting me to speak today and pay tribute to your work. The role of think tanks in formulating bold policy to re-shape government has probably never been more important, and Policy Exchange has already made an immense contribution in formulating ideas to reform policing and criminal justice policy.

Three years ago I wrote ‘Policing for the People’, the Conservative Party’s radical agenda to bring accountability to police forces. I followed this with ‘Prisons with a Purpose’, with no less radical proposals to re-cast the penal system and reduce re-offending. Now I find myself charged by the Prime Minister to support Theresa May at the Home Office and Ken Clarke at the Ministry of Justice in driving these plans forward, reforming criminal justice policy, and attempting to ensure a coherent approach between the two departments. I am not sure whether I am a poacher turned gamekeeper, or a reform recidivist.

Today I want to set out the Coalition government’s approach to law and order, and explain the principles that will guide us as we embark on an ambitious programme of criminal justice reform. Our mission is to create a fairer, more efficient and more accountable criminal justice system- one which people trust.

Public safety a critical issue

I want to begin by re-stating a truth: that law and order is fundamental to a civilised, free and democratic society. Public safety is the first responsibility of any effective government. The public services which keep people safe are more important than almost any other. Public concern about crime is remarkably consistent. The issue remains in the top three concerns, up there with immigration and the economy.

Everyone rightly expects to be able to live in safely in their homes, to protect the possessions which they have worked hard to acquire, and to walk the streets without fear of harm or harassment. These are the most basic conditions of a free and civilised society.

Ensuring these conditions, particularly in urban areas, is not easy. It cannot be taken for granted. It cannot be achieved by gimmicks or short-termism. It requires effective planning, hard work, and strong and honest leadership. But leadership that respects the professionalism and expertise of those who work in the system, and supports, not stifles, the passion and drive of the public who want to make their own area safer.

Crime statistics

I want to get past the stale debate about crime figures. We desperately need measures of crime and a process of publishing the information in which the public can have confidence, which we can all agree about, and which give us a clear and meaningful picture of what’s happening.

One measure of crime, recorded by the police, has changed, so it can’t show reliable trends in violent crime, something the public are rightly worried about. The other measure, the British Crime Survey, hasn’t counted all victims. Last week’s experimental BCS figures revealed that anywhere between several hundred thousand and 2 million crimes are taking place against children – crimes that simply hadn’t been measured before.

The public simply don’t believe the figures. So in due course we will announce our plans for how crime should be measured in future. Trusted data will be particularly important if we are increasingly judging success by outcomes – by how much crime there is and how confident people feel. And we mustn’t lose sight of the big picture.

Because while crime has fallen internationally, and there have particularly been reductions in acquisitive crime, aided by better technology to protect cars and homes, we continue to have one of the highest victimisation rates in the EU, with a higher likelihood of assault.

Choose your measure, and there are between 5 and 11 million crimes a year. Either way, this is extremely high, higher than our peer group countries. Anti-social behaviour blights communities; drugs are too prevalent and violent youth crime, often unreported, remains a serious concern.

Perhaps most shocking of all, according to the BCS, 80 per cent of the public believe that the criminal justice system respects the rights of those accused while, by contrast, just over a third believe it meets the needs of victims. Less than half of the public have confidence in the effectiveness of the criminal justice system.

So in the debate about statistics, don’t let’s belittle the challenge or dismiss the public’s concern. Crime can never be too low; our streets can never be too safe, and there can never be excuses for inaction.

Accept what has gone wrong

We will not start to make the right changes, or go far enough in our reform programme, unless we accept what has gone wrong.

The problem hasn’t been a lack of government money. Combined annual budgets of the police, courts and prison have increased dramatically over the past decade – by £8 billion, from £11 billion to £19 billion. That’s an increase of 38 per cent in real terms. Nor has there been a lack of laws. The last thirteen years have been characterised by an unprecedented hail-storm of legislation: over 60 criminal justice acts, and more than 3,500 new criminal offences. Often new legislation included measures to repeal certain aspects of previous legislation that had never been implemented because they proved to be unworkable.

The problems were fundamental. An ever tighter central grip had at best only limited success in driving up standards in the components of the criminal justice system, but it also eroded local autonomy and discretion. Police forces, prison and probation services became almost overwhelmed with targets imposed from Whitehall and process measures that have sapped their morale and caused widespread resentment. It also drove a fractured system – each agency looking to central government for direction rather than looking to the victims, witnesses, offenders and wider public and then working across the system to solve their problems.

Tough rhetoric on crime led to ill-thought measures, government-by-gimmick and an ineffective authoritarianism which threatened civil liberties but did little to build public confidence. Grandstanding by previous ministers on sentencing was followed by emergency measures such as the End of Custody Licence scheme which saw 80,000 prisoners released early, until the scheme was scrapped weeks before the General Election.

There were some important innovations over the last decade: the Family Intervention Projects, Victim Personal Statements, and the introduction of PCSOs, for instance. But these examples are the exceptions that prove the rule: a lack of a coherent approach to the criminal justice system as a whole. Whatever the other merits of splitting the Home Office, the result was a dislocation of criminal justice policy. We know, on the ground, that effective joint working between agencies is essential to tackle crime. But there’s been little of it at the national level.

What we are left with is a system that is fractured where it should be seamless and reactive where it should be preventative. The way in which it does business and engages with the public is similarly disjointed. It is remote, lacking transparency where it should be open and honest, and is too often focused on offenders where it should be accountable to the public and driven by the needs of victims. Critically, professionals in the system are limited by interference from the centre where they should be empowered and set free.

The chain of justice

A Government website describes “The criminal justice system” as “one of the major public services in the country”. But more than half of all crime in this country is committed by people who have been through this ‘service’. And too often it’s not a system at all.

The police, courts, prisons and probation services are all links in the chain of justice. Building a safer society means ensuring that each link in the chain of justice is strong. Yet every link is broken.

Early intervention is vital to prevent young people slipping into crime. Yet 60 per cent of those given sentences of up to four years didn’t attend school regularly.

The public want action on anti-social behaviour and a visible police presence on the streets. Yet, despite record officer numbers and the neighbourhood policing programme, we still have too many police officers who are invisible, tied up with paperwork when the public want to see them out on the beat.

There are weak incentives across the system to prevent the slide of offenders into custody – indeed, if anything, such incentives actually promote greater use of custody. There is little use of informal sanctions for children and weak non-custodial punishments for juveniles. There is a failure to enforce fine collection, and community disposals – including drugs interventions – which are not completed. In fact nearly half of those sentenced to a community or suspended sentence order will never complete it.

Prisons are overcrowded and drugs use is a serious problem; 40 per cent of sentenced offenders have mental health issues; offenders are being locked in their cells for most of the day and do little purposeful activity; few short sentenced prisoners receive supervision or support on release, and half of all adult offenders re-offend within a year. The attempt to create a National Offender Management Service, with decentralised decision making and contestability, succeeded in name only. The idea of integrated or end-to-end offender management is only getting off the ground across part of the country; elsewhere, it’s little more than an ambition.

And so the cycle of crime is perpetuated. A hard core of repeat offenders commit the vast majority of all offences. Half of all crime is being committed by people who have previously been convicted – people who the ‘system’ has already dealt with. And a Home Office study of 10 to 25-year-olds found that 7 per cent of their sample committed over 80 per cent of offences.

We can’t go on like this, spending ever more, yet still lurching from one law and order crisis to another. The dislocated approach to preventing crime and re-offending has divided professionals who should have common cause and carries immense social and financial costs. It’s costing up to £70 billion in personal crime, household crime, fraud and commercial crime alone. Once you take into account the social costs of anti-social behaviour, drug dealing and fear of crime, the costs are even higher. We have to break the cycle of crime – and that means breaking out of the old politics.

New principles

The Prime Minister has stated clearly the principles that underpin the Coalition’s programme for government: freedom, fairness and responsibility. Those principles should run through our approach to law and order and criminal justice reform.

Freedom is a vital precondition of a safe society. We will be clear-sighted about the importance of civil liberties, understanding that our security is founded on them. We cannot rely on more laws to make us more law-abiding. That is why we will introduce a Freedom Bill, to restore freedoms and civil liberties, rolling back the State by reducing impositions on individual citizens and restoring freedoms such as the right to non-violent protest. And that is why we have already introduced a Bill to scrap ID cards.

It isn’t just individual freedom from an over-powerful State that has been under threat, but the social freedom that comes from living in a safe community. A society that is safer for ordinary citizens is one where they have freedom from crime and the fear of crime.

When crime and anti-social behaviour go unchallenged, whole neighbourhoods can become no-go areas where innocent residents lose ownership and feel unable to live the life they choose. Reducing crime and rebuilding confidence is as much about restoring people’s freedom as it is about providing security.

Crime is also a social justice issue. We can all be victims of crime. But those of us who are better off live in safer areas, while the poorest in society suffer by far the worst crime. And social problems of absent parents, childhood abuse, drug and alcohol addiction, mental illness and poor education all blight the lives of too many young offenders. A fairer society requires effective crime reduction.

Reducing crime through better policing, punishment and rehabilitation, and through working with partners outside the criminal justice system entirely, ensures that everyone, including the poorest in our society, can live in safety and security. Ensuring we have early and targeted crime prevention for those most at risk also ensures that those who are in danger of turning to crime can be steered towards a different path and choose to live a better life. So our determination to tackle crime and reform the criminal justice system is a rooted in a progressive ideal.

Individual and social responsibility is the third and in many ways the most important principle that we will apply to the criminal justice reform. An effective criminal justice system should be based on a fair apportioning of personal responsibility. Offenders need to know that their actions have consequences.

Without proper boundaries, there is an all-too-familiar escalation from childhood misdemeanours to juvenile anti-social behaviour to adult criminality. Children at risk of offending are not made to face the consequences of their actions. As a result, they grow up without ever learning to respect the law, authority and the community in which they live. We need to become comfortable again with the notion of punishment as a consequence of anti-social behaviour. And the criminal justice system must reinforce responsibility and ensure that offending always has consequences which are visible to the law-abiding majority.

We need to insist that offenders accept their responsibilities, too: by paying back to society and victims; by making reparation, including participating in restorative justice where appropriate; by working in community payback and completing the task, and by earning their release from prison rather than expecting early release.

But individual responsibility is only one side of the coin. Social responsibility is the other, and it’s also vital to safer communities. We need to ensure that parents take responsibility for their children’s behaviour. We need to ensure that schools have the responsibility and power to enforce discipline.

The Integrated Offender Management approach in Bristol aims for a collective responsibility for a safer city: police, probation, local businesses and offenders themselves taking responsibility for their actions. Our review of the licensing laws will ensure that businesses accept their responsibilities to prevent binge drinking.

The Coalition’s programme for government speaks of ‘a Big Society matched by big citizens’. Part of that means fostering a resurgence in community activism to galvanise action by local groups, encouraging communities to share responsibility for making their neighbourhoods safer.

This is not about the State shirking its responsibilities, but precisely the opposite – the State firmly supporting people to do the right thing. In the 1950s there were 67,000 Special Constables – nearly five times the number today. There are already over 3.5 million people involved with Neighbourhood Watch. We have not begun to fulfil the potential of social action to help tackle crime.

New ambition

Conventional methods of combating crime – policing and punishment – will always be necessary, and they are vital tools to keep communities safe, but on their own they are not enough.

Our ambition must be to repair every one of those links in the chain of justice and end the revolving door of re-offending.

We want to begin with stronger families and more focused early intervention.

We want to see local authorities, registered social landlords, social services and health services co-ordinate more effectively to address problem behaviour.

We want to see good quality neighbourhood policing. Policing that is visible and available, focusing not just on detection and response, but also on preventing crime.

We want to see sentencing reflecting the importance of work and rehabilitation, as well as punishment and reparation to victims.

We want to see fines and penalties enforced.

We want to see community sentences which are robust and effective, with a focus on reducing re-offending, where offenders are got off drugs, where they complete requirements to work, and where failure to comply is simply not tolerated.

We want to see prisons with a purpose, free of drugs, where offenders work and the system focuses on preparing them for release and ensuring that they do not offend again.

We want to be sure that the public is protected from dangerous offenders and that supervision arrangements when they are released are as rigorous as possible.

New reality

It is a mark of how disconnected the criminal justice system has become from the public that these goals may be seen as over-ambitious. To most people, they are simply common sense prescriptions. But of course our ambition to reform must be married with the reality of the fiscal position and the inevitable constraints on the public finances.

Yesterday’s Budget made clear the scale of the challenge facing the public sector: a reduction in spending of £17 billion by 2014/15. This is essential to reducing the deficit, and the criminal justice system as a whole must play its part.

Although we will not know precisely what that means until after the Spending Review has concluded, we cannot sustain a situation where, without action, we will in five years’ time be spending over three times more on debt interest alone than on the entire criminal justice system. Achieving savings will mean driving value for money and delivering more from less. The criminal justice system is no more immune from these imperatives than any other public service.

We have already announced the need for greater efficiencies in police forces. Today, Ken Clarke is announcing proposals to modernise and make more effective use of the court estate. This includes consulting on the closure of 103 magistrates’ courts. Of these courts, half sit for less than half of the time available to them, wasting large amounts of money both for the courts service and for others in the criminal justice system who need to have a presence at a number of different courts.

But more than this, we need to take the opportunity to think again about how we can provide more modern court services. The arrangements we currently have are historical and now need to be re-assessed to ask if they meet the needs of society as it is today. We increasingly use the internet and e-mail to communicate and access services. Providing access to justice does not necessarily mean providing a courthouse in every town or city.

We will shortly be announcing proposals to reform legal aid, on which we spend over £2 billion a year – more than almost any other country. But we will not forget the most needy in society, and we will ensure that legal aid continues to provide fair and necessary access to justice for those who need it.

Criminal justice reform holds as much promise of delivering social benefits as it does economic ones. We need to be clear that it’s outcomes that matter, not inputs. This is hardly a novel idea. The founder of modern policing, Sir Robert Peel, stated in his ninth principle of policing that “The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.” That was in 1822.

But too often, we’ve assumed that success equates to size. The test of an effective police force is not how much it costs or the number of police officers it employs. The test of effective courts system is not the number of court buildings. The test of an effective penal system is not the number of offenders in prison. The test of ensuring access to justice is not the same as the size of the legal aid budget.

And the test of an effective criminal justice system is not how much money we’re spending on it. It already costs approaching £20 billion a year, making it one of the most expensive criminal justice systems in the world. We spend more of our GDP on criminal justice than France, Ireland or Italy. Incarcerating more offenders but denying them effective rehabilitation, letting them out early only to lock them up again six months later is not effective policy, but it’s expensive policy. Sentencing thousands of offenders to undertake probation supervision which isn’t visible or tough is not effective policy. And if offenders simply come back through the door, it’s expensive policy, too.

The old numbers game is a fraud on the public. We need an honest reappraisal of what counts as success in law and order policy. We need new thinking about how to deliver better outcomes – thinking which doesn’t start from the assumption that more cash is the only answer, or that old, under-utilised buildings are indispensible to criminal justice.

There are ways other than old-fashioned, under-visited police stations for the police to have a footprint or base in their communities – sharing community premises, or a shop front on the local parade. There should be ways other than sitting in traditional courts to involve magistrates in the delivery of swift summary justice. We can also use our valuable resources more wisely. Specialist domestic violence courts in places like Sunderland and Leicester have strengthened the links between local partners, who are working together with common purpose.

And we need better ways to spend the money we have. Because the truth is that, even if resources were flowing freely into and out of the Treasury (and they are not), reinforcing failing systems with more cash won’t produce the results. Reform of the criminal justice system isn’t an optional extra. The last decade has shown us that without reform the agencies won’t deliver.

New policies

So over the course of the next few months, we will be setting out proposals for fundamental criminal justice reform. We will introduce a Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill in this first session of the new Parliament. Later this year, we will set out proposals to reform sentencing and the way we manage offenders. Today I want to identify the principles, the threads of reform, which will run through our approach.

First, we must move away from Labour’s centralised direction and targets, and focus on securing outcomes rather than dictating processes. We must stop telling criminal justice professionals how to do their job, and start holding them firmly to account for the results they deliver. The huge gain will be a reduction in bureaucracy, greater discretion and more local innovation. We must trust professionals, but that cannot mean giving up on the drive for higher standards. Stronger accountability is the quid pro quo for abandoning the decade of ‘deliverology’.

Where appropriate we should replace bureaucratic accountability with democratic accountability. So we will drive on with our policy of introducing directly elected individuals to replace police authorities. We’re discussing these plans carefully and constructively with the police and other stakeholders, and further details will be announced in due course.

But let me make one thing clear. We will protect the operational independence of the police, just as we must defend the independence of the judiciary. This reform will build a strong new bridge between the police and the public. It will produce a clarity and accountability for police performance such as we have seen introduced in London. It will ensure policing for the people.

We also need to focus on the importance of accountability in other elements of the criminal justice system. The absence of clear lines of accountability for preventing the slide of offenders into the penal system, and for reducing re-offending once they’re in it, is a key underlying problem which our reforms must address. It is also a problem in the range of local partnerships working in this area, such as community safety partnerships. These can be successful in joining local agencies’ efforts to tackle crime, but they can also be bureaucratic. I want them to be free to determine the best working arrangements for the places they serve.

Local co-operation is vital. But the partnerships need to be action-oriented, not meetings-oriented, with stronger and clear accountability to local communities. They need to drive co-operation between frontline professionals at the neighbourhood level; this is where communities engage with their services, what the Prime Minister has called the key building block of the Big Society. There must be no more transfer of blame. Local agencies are in the crime-fighting business together and have a responsibility to work together. As we move away from ring-fenced central programmes towards streamlined funding and greater autonomy for local agencies to determine priorities, they must answer for outcomes and how the money is spent.

There are already good examples of this kind of working. This morning I was in East London to see their Diamond District project in action. It’s an area pioneering an Integrated Offender Management approach, focusing on the offenders who do the most damage locally. By making contact with offenders before they’ve even left jail, by pulling together all local schemes, and by managing offenders to make sure they are carrying out their community sentences, they’re mending the links in the chain locally, and driving down recidivism. When the agencies come together effectively on the ground, they can deliver real results.

Second, we must get the incentives right in the criminal justice system. Targets are poor incentives, and often drive perverse behaviour and outcomes. We should embrace far more powerful incentives, opening up contestability in penal services and paying providers – from the private and not-for-profit sector – by results. Our Coalition Agreement commits us to “… introduce a ‘rehabilitation revolution’ that will pay independent providers to reduce re-offending, paid for by the savings this new approach will generate within the criminal justice system.”

The Peterborough Social Impact Bond ‘Prototype’ provides the means to pilot a payment by results framework. We will pay investors, working with experienced social sector organisations such as St Giles Trust and YMCA, for their success in reducing reconvictions in adult short-sentence prisoners discharged from jail. This will involve a long term package of purposeful interventions both inside HMP Peterborough prison and after release to help offenders resettle successfully into the community.

We should be excited by the potential for unlocking the expertise of organisations, especially in the voluntary sector, which know how to work with offenders to get them back on the straight and narrow, whether through rigorous interventions to get them off drugs, mentoring, or preparing them for the world of work and responsibility. For too long we have done next to nothing to supervise or support offenders on short-term prison sentences who, on release, rapidly return to a life of crime. Now we have the opportunity, through rigorous payment by results mechanisms, to capture the savings to the criminal justice system by preventing re-offending, make effective rehabilitation services a reality, and cut crime. You could call this “Justice Reinvestment”

Third, with greater accountability comes the prize of greater autonomy for professionals in the criminal justice system. We have already announced that we want to return charging decisions in minor cases to police officers. The next few years, and dealing with the deficit, will present challenges for those who work in public services. But the increased responsibility, discretion and trust, and the reduction in direction, bureaucracy and paperwork, will be a hugely positive step for people who work in the Criminal Justice System.

Fourth, we will drive value for money, focusing on the opportunity of greater back office collaboration, centralised procurement, and use of technology to improve the performance of the criminal justice system. We need to ensure that IT systems are compatible, and promote innovative ways of working that can drive efficiencies, such as handheld terminals for the police to record searches, and evaluating the capacity of video link technology to save time and money.

Local teams and services also have a key role to play here, maximising the effective use of staff time and the way in which agencies work together. This means reducing the unnecessary paperwork, the wasted time, and the inefficient processes to improve value for money. The Government will play its part by ending central direction and targetry. But in turn we need a cultural change throughout the criminal justice system, where every player is focused on performance rather than process, on cost-effective action rather than resource-sapping bureaucracy.

Fifth, in place of the torrent of new and frequently ill-considered laws and initiatives, we want to take an evidence-led approach, spreading information about what works in the system and ensuring that those who work in it are equipped to do the job. We are reviewing the ‘toolkit’ for antisocial behaviour and will ensure that agencies have effective measures to tackle it, including forms of restorative justice such as Neighbourhood Justice Panels.

I want to talk to professionals in the Criminal Justice System, to listen and understand their view, and to consult widely and properly.

Sixth, if the public are to be able to hold the criminal justice system to account, they need better information. Unlike councils, schools or hospitals, more people feel uninformed than informed about the police. We must open up the criminal justice system so that the public, and especially victims of crime, know more. People have the right to know when there has been a spate of burglaries in their street so that they can come together with their neighbours, local services and community organisations to collectively address the issue. People have the right to know what action has been taken on crimes they have heard about, how justice has been done and the right to have their questions answered if it hasn’t.

So from January, we will be providing crime data at a level that allows every community in the country to really see what is happening on their streets. We will require police forces to hold regular ‘beat meetings’ so that residents can hold them to account. And in contrast with the delays and failures of the last government, I am determined to look for a cost effective way of driving forward a national non-emergency number, to give the public even better access to the police and other local public services.

These are significant steps forward in the transfer of power from Whitehall, and we can go further. Transparency should extend to how money is spent, so that we know across the criminal justice system what each service costs, how much senior figures are earning, and the value of external contracts.

Seventh, we need to encourage greater community involvement in keeping neighbourhoods safe. Of course, some communities are more able to get involved than others, and some individuals have more time to commit. But others simply can’t find a way to interact with the system. 60 per cent of us in this country say we wouldn’t get involved in an anti-social incident. In Germany, the same number say they would. That’s partly because we’ve been sending mixed messages to the public that have left them worrying about their basic right to defend themselves and their home. I think we need more neighbourliness, with people feeling able in their communities to stand up for the social values that underpin our society. And I think the system should back people who do the right thing. We need to support civic action, not freeze it out.

So we can make sure that local services, for example neighbourhood policing teams, have a clear role in enabling and encouraging communities to come together and get involved. We can devolve funding, power and decision-making to local groups, and engage the voluntary sector to run innovative services that provide value for money.

As Sir Robert Peel famously said: “The police are the public and the public are the police.” We want to build on neighbourhood watch and community crime fighters, linking these schemes together, making them more accessible and attractive to a wider group of people, and encouraging members to get their neighbourhoods involved.

Whether it’s through looking out for our neighbours, reporting crimes or antisocial behaviour and knowing that action will be taken, challenging for better services at beat meetings or online, supporting victims or devoting more time to volunteering, building the Big Society is as important to fighting crime as running effective agencies. The criminal justice system cannot be isolated from community engagement, and it will be immeasurably strengthened by it.

New start

The criminal justice system is fundamental to our being able to live together peacefully. It cannot fall below the highest standards set by any of our other public services. It exists to ensure that people are honest and considerate, so it, too, must be honest and considerate.

Sadly, for too many people too much of the time, the criminal justice system has let them down.

And by denying the problems, dismissing public fear of crime, or pretending the government had quick and easy solutions, politicians have let the public down on crime, too.

The Coalition Government understands the need for a new start.

We understand that crime matters and that people care deeply about it. It destroys individual lives and whole communities; for some people, crime has made life not worth living.

This Government is determined to put law and order where it belongs in the national agenda: right at the top.

We must ensure that people can once again have faith that crime is being tackled, offenders are being punished and reformed, and that Britain is becoming a safer place in which to live.

So our objective must be nothing less than the complete restoration of trust in the criminal justice system.

This does not mean getting rid of everyone in charge and putting in a completely new team. The fault for the present state of affairs is not that of the dedicated professionals who staff our police forces, our prisons and other parts of the system. The fault belongs to the system in which they have had to operate.

We can’t change everything overnight, and we can’t do it by tinkering or spending yet more public money.

Instead we have to embark on a determined and radical programme of criminal justice reform.

We should aim for the public to have the same level of confidence in our criminal justice system, and respect for all those who work in it, as they do the NHS. And like the NHS, perhaps it is time to tell the public directly that this is not a criminal justice system, opaque, unaccountable and distant, but a criminal justice service, which exists to serve and protect them, just as much as it exists to serve the interests of justice.

This can’t go on being a system where half of the police, the first representatives of the system most people will encounter, say they’d speak critically of it. I want this to be a service in which communities and professionals alike take pride, where we are united with common cause and shared values. And I want it to be a service which never stops thinking about the interests of victims who suffer when, frankly, we don’t succeed in tackling crime.

The public consistently say that they want three things from the criminal justice system. They want the police to be there for them.

They want action to be taken when crime is committed – including the antisocial behaviour which is too often ignored.And they want criminals to face the consequences for the crimes they commit.

These are simple and reasonable expectations. I challenge anyone to tell me that they’re unrealistic. Yet they have not been met.

We are determined to do better. Not by ineffective authoritarianism, hollow ‘get tough’ promises, higher spending or more central control.

But through sound policy and radical reform of policing, probation and prisons. Driving value for money, demanding greater accountability …

Giving the public information and power to effect change and ensuring that the criminal justice system lives up to its name, truly serving the public it is there to protect.

Published 23 June 2010