Brian Sims

Boost for public safety as justice bills receive Royal Assent

THE GOVERNMENT is delivering on its pledge to better protect the public and restore confidence in the criminal justice system through major bills that received Royal Assent on Thursday 28 April.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act equips the police service with the powers and tools needed to combat crime and create safer communities, while overhauling sentencing laws to keep serious sexual and violent offenders behind bars for longer periods of time.

New court orders will crack down on knife crime, making it easier to stop and search known knife offenders and prevent future tragedies. Alongside this, a new legal duty will be placed on different parts of the public sector to work together to tackle serious violence.

In tandem, the Judicial Review and Courts Act delivers on a Conservative Party Manifesto commitment to ensure that the courts are not open to abuse and delay and provides much needed flexibility on the outcome of judicial review procedures. Crucially, it also ends inefficient ‘Cart’ judicial reviews to minimise delays in immigration, asylum and other cases that have already been refused permission for appeal by serving Judges.

Further, the Approved Premises (Substance Testing) Act strengthens the Probation Service’s ability to tackle drug abuse among offenders through new compulsory testing that’s designed to reduce reoffending.

The Approved Premises (Substance Testing) Act was brought forward by Rob Butler MP and toughens drug testing within accommodation used by the Probation Service to house recently released high-risk offenders on licence. The move will help Probation Service staff better identify those at risk, keep them on the path to rehabilitation and cut crime.

Cutting criminality

Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Dominic Raab said: “This Government has been clear on its commitment to cut crime and protect the public. We are delivering on that promise. These new laws give the police and the courts the tools they need to keep people safe and will restore confidence in the criminal justice system by making sure punishments fit the severity of the crime.”

The new laws build on the Government’s Beating Crime Plan to reduce crime, better protect victims and make the country safer. It has already seen the recruitment of more than 13,500 of the 20,000 extra police officers promised by March 2023, which was one of the Prime Minister’s first commitments in office.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act also doubles the maximum penalty from 12 months to two years for those who assault police officers or other Emergency Services workers, such as prison officers, Fire and Rescue Service personnel or front line healthcare workers, thereby helping to protect those who put their lives on the line to keep communities safe.

It will also bring ‘Harpers Law’ to the statute book, introducing mandatory life sentences for anyone convicted of killing an Emergency Services worker while committing a crime.

Landmark moment

Home Secretary Priti Patel explained: “This is a landmark moment for the people of our country. The measures we promised to introduce to cut crime and make our streets safer are now enshrined in law.”

Patel added: “The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act is integral to our Beating Crime Plan and delivers on our commitments to back the police, level up the entire country and give everyone the security of a safe street and home.”

Further, Patel observed: “This Act of Parliament will support the 20,000 additional police recruits who will be in place this time next year to reduce serious violence, including knife crime and domestic abuse, and make sure the very worst criminals are thrown behind bars for the longest possible time.”

The announcement comes as the Government is investing £477 million to deliver speedier justice for victims and reduce the backlog of cases which rose significantly during the pandemic. This includes lifting the cap on Crown Court sitting days for another year to ensure the courts can continue working at full capacity in order to minimise delays.

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