England: Sources hint at move away from problem-solving courts expansion

Liz Truss

The Justice Secretary Liz Truss is abandoning her predecessor’s plans to roll out more problem-solving courts on the basis they would not be seen as tough on offenders, The Guardian reports.

Insiders at the Ministry of Justice say former Justice Secretary Michael Gove’s plans to bring more of the US-originated courts - where non-custodial outcomes are pursued under judicial supervision - to England and Wales will be quietly scrapped.

Drug courts, piloted in many parts of the UK, are an example of a problem-solving court, where justice agencies collaborate to help non-violent offenders change their lifestyle without going to prison.

In March, the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, Sir Declan Morgan, urged an extension of problem-solving courts to NI.

Sir Declan told BBC programme The View that the US and Scotland had successfully tackled re-offending rates in their respective jurisdictions by establishing special drugs courts.

He said: “There is no reason why Northern Ireland should not enjoy the same type of approach and hopefully the same benefits.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice has insisted that the government “will be moving forward with problem-solving courts”.

However, the extension of problem-solving courts in England and Wales was absent from an internal email sent Friday which detailed key prison and justice reform programmes.

One MoJ insider reportedly told The Guardian: “It appears that Liz Truss is sceptical. It looks too much like being nice to criminals and one of Michael Gove’s ‘lovely ideas’.”

Photo credit: UK government (OGL 2.0).

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