Delivering an effective justice system is a key Conservative priority. We are reforming our courts to deliver swift and sure justice. We are making our prisons places of effective punishment, hard work and successful rehabilitation. We are forcing criminals to face up to the causes of their criminality, and to pay something back to victims. We are making changes to ensure that the justice system is always on the side of victims and not on the side of criminals.
The bigger picture
• Our mission is to make sure that people feel safe in their homes and that they can walk the streets freely and without fear. We are tackling the scourge of knife crime with the clear sentences Labour failed to deliver.
• We have brought into force the Prisoners’ Earnings Act, so that offenders who are working as part of their punishment pay financial reparation to victims, requiring them to take personal responsibility for their crimes and go some way towards compensating victims through the funding of crucial support services.
• Prisons should give prisoners a decent chance to reform themselves and begin to make changes for the better, helping them to be released back into society as decent, tax-paying, individuals. Prisoners must come to know what it is to contribute to and not damage their communities. That must start in prison and continue outside.
• We are modernising and simplifying the justice system in this country. The response to the riots showed us that the system can move much faster. We are bringing to bear a new focus on delivering swift and sure justice which will support the police, give communities a voice, and reduce crime.
Reforming sentencing to make it more effective as punishment and rehabilitation
Action to date
• Introduced a 'Two strikes' and you're out policy so that a mandatory life sentence will be given to anyone convicted of a second very serious sexual or violent crime.
• Ended the practice of releasing dangerous sexual and violent offenders halfway through their sentence.
• Introduced an automatic prison sentence for any adult who uses a knife to threaten and endanger. To send a clear message about the seriousness of juvenile knife crime, we have extended a suitable equivalent sentence to 16-17 year olds, but not to younger children.
• Extended the use of 'payment by results' schemes, working with the voluntary, independent and public sectors to cut the reoffending rate. Providers of rehabilitation services pay back 10 per cent of the contract price unless they reduce reoffending by 5 per cent from current levels.
• Extend payment by results in prisons to tackle reoffending.
Making offenders pay back to victims
Action to date
• Introduced a five-day week of hard work and job-seeking for offender on the Community Payback scheme.
• Extended curfews to make community sentences more punitive. Tagged offenders can now be confined to their homes for up to 16 hours every day for a year, extending the current limit of 12 hours per day over a six-month period.
• Implemented the Prisoners earning Act 1996, which was passed by the last Conservative government but never enacted by Labour. Now low-risk prisoners who work outside of prison to prepare for their eventual release will see up to 40 per cent of their net weekly wages over £20 go to services which support victims of crime.
• Increasing the 'Victim Surcharge' on criminal fines and extending it to apply to a far wider range of sentences.
• We will further reform the Community Payback scheme to ensure that the work offenders do is intensive and delivered within days of an offender being sentenced.
• We will further extend work in prisons so that offenders come out knowing how to make a positive contribution to society and not reoffend.
Making our courts work faster
Action to date
• The swift and sure response of our courts to the riots of summer 2011 showed how effectively they can operate. We should expect that kind of speedy and effective justice as the norm.
• We have begun to reform the legal aid system to make it work more efficiently, while ensuring that we provide necessary support for those who need it most and for those cases that require it.
• We have created a new integrated HM Courts and Tribunals Service to make courts work more efficiently.
• We are trialling flexible court opening hours across the country so the system can respond to local needs.
• We will extend the use of video technology in the Criminal Justice System - including rolling out new prison-to-court video links to all Crown Courts.
• We will empower local communities to deal with anti-social behaviour and low level offending through 'Neighbourhood Justice Panels'.
• We will examine ways to speed-up how our courts work, for example by allowing magistrates to sit on their own, instead only in threes.
Reforming Human Rights
Action to date
• Human rights is a cause that runs deep in the British heart and long in British history. We are not and never will be a country that walks on by while human rights are abused. But we won't tolerate the legal abuse of human rights legislation in our courts either.
• The UK chaired an international conference to reform how the European Court of Human Rights operates to make it more efficient, quicker and to ensure it interferes less.
• We have established a Commission to investigate the creation of a UK Bill of Rights that protects and extends British liberties, that incorporates and builds on all our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, and ensures that these rights continue to be enshrined in British law.
• We have used a vote in the House of Commons to make clear to the judges that foreign criminals should not use the human right to a family life to avoid deportation.
• We will further review how the European Court of Human Rights operates.