Tag Archives: justice

Julian Huppert MP writes…A credible alternative to prison has always been a Liberal Democrat priority

For decades British Governments have been locking up criminals for 12 months or less, to watch them reoffend straight after they leave prison. Worse than that, the policy is costly, and holds little public confidence.

But when you look at how we treat women offenders, the situation is even worse.

Almost half of women serving 12 months or less will reoffend within the next year. And of all women in prison, 6 in 10 are there for six months or less; the vast majority of whom have committed non-violent offences. The last Government’s response was to increase the female prison …

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Opinion: Who’s the odd one out?

Name the odd one out: Timothy Edmonds (convicted paedophile), Hussain Osman (convicted terrorist), Julian Assange (Wikileaks founder wanted for questioning by Swedish police) and Abu Hamza (Egyptian-born militant Islamist now facing terrorism charges in a New York court). Not too difficult – it’s Abu Hamza, who was extradited to the USA after an eight-year legal battle.

The other three are currently, or have been in the past, the subject of European arrest warrants. All of them, if Theresa May gets her way, would have been able to evade justice for as long as

Posted in Europe / International and News | Also tagged and | 23 Comments

Stephen Lawrence – “Some justice at last”

The BBC reports the stunning news:

Two men have been convicted of the racist murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence, 18 years after he was stabbed to death at a south London bus stop.

Gary Dobson and David Norris were found guilty by an Old Bailey jury after a trial based on forensic evidence.

Scientists found a tiny blood stain on Dobson’s jacket that could only have come from Mr Lawrence.

As he was led away, Dobson told the jury they had condemned an “innocent man”. Sentencing will be on Wednesday.

Stephen’s parents, Doreen and Neville, wept in court as the jury found

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Opinion: A real opportunity to Make Justice Work

One of the highlights of conference for me was the breakfast roundtable organised by Make Justice Work. As conference goers and fringe organisers will know, getting one MP along is a challenge, managing to attract three must be close to a record! So it was a demonstration of the commitment our party has to reforming the criminal justice system that Justice minister Tom McNally, chair of the Justice Select Committee Alan Beith and member of the Home Affairs Select Committee Julian Huppert, all attended.

For those of you who don’t know the organisation, it was founded by Roma Hooper to …

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Ken Clarke: the sixth Lib Dem cabinet minister

Part of the Coalition deal was that the Lib Dems secured five cabinet posts, a number in proportion to the party’s number of MPs. But there was another appointment which can be counted a success of the Coalition from the Lib Dem perspective: the appointment of Ken Clarke as secretary of state for justice.

It’s a success on two levels.

First, Ken Clarke is a liberal Tory — so for the first time in 17 years (since Ken Clarke was home secretary in John Major’s government) the UK has a believer in restorative justice setting government policy. After the right-wing …

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Opinion: Democracy, the Rule of Law and New Labour

Back in the 1980s my employer, encouraged by some important orders I’d picked up in what we then called Eastern Europe, asked me to try to build up a distribution network in as many countries as I could. In creating this customer base, I made a number of good friends in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary and Yugoslavia. It was good business, though never easy, and my sympathy with the many friends I made there led me to take more time over it than perhaps I should have.

I’m pleased to say that after the fall of the Berlin Wall, I was personally able to help a number of my old contacts with the small amounts of capital needed to start up their own businesses and keep up contact with many of them even now. Sad to say some of my Yugoslav friends disappeared into the tragedy of the Civil War, though I still keep in touch with Slovenes who escaped the worst of it.

In those dark days in the 1980s conversations often turned to politics. Once we had carefully sounded each other out, it was a topic that could not be easily avoided. It was obvious that the system had failed, though no one I ever spoke to thought it would go and certainly not in the manner it did. I felt it had 10 years; they were generally far less sanguine.

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Opinion: Youth justice – a golden opportunity for the Lib Dems

Youth justice has risen, zombie-like, from the place unloved political issues go to die. In July, the Government published an interim report on The Youth Crime Action Plan, its “comprehensive, cross-government analysis of what the government is going to do to tackle youth crime.”

This prompted vigorous activity from the think-tanks and NGOs, and a predictable silence from the dead who may live again, aka the Conservative Party.

Last week, the Liberal Democrats published data showing that the number of 10 to 12 year olds convicted of a criminal offence rose by 87.2% between 1997 and 2007. Nick Clegg, remarking on the figures, argued that:

It is a disgrace the Government spends eleven times more locking up our young people than it does on backing projects to stop them getting involved in crime in the first place.”

Unless you happen to be keen on nineteenth century penal philosophy, Nick’s comment seems to make excellent sense. I would suggest, however, that it is, at best, carelessly imprecise. At worst, it indicates a refusal to challenge the prevailing conservative narrative on youth crime. Given recent reporting of events in Doncaster, a measured rebuttal is more critical than ever.

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Haggis, Neeps and Liberalism #7: The Megrahi Documents

The Megrahi case has ripped apart the peace of the Scottish Parliamentary recess, with even some former Lib Dem leaders taking a differing view to our leader in Holyrood. Today the UK Government and Scottish Parliament have released papers relating to the discussions that have gone one over the last two years. It ranges from correspondence between Westminster and Holyrood, to memos of meetings with Libyan officials, to the compassionate release request listing medical conditions.

These start chronologically with the first letter from then-Lord Chnacellor Lord (Charles) Falconer to Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond outlining the Memorandum of Understanding that Westminster had set up with Libya regarding a number of judicial issues. The Memorandum was drawn up to look at increasing bilateral co-operation covering, amongst other things, commercial and criminal issues. The legal issues were not exclusively about Mr Al Megrahi, but looking at the bigger picture of co-operation between the two nations at large. However, Lord Falconer did say that nothing could be ruled in or out, but that co-operation and consultation between Westminster and Holyrood would be carried forward.

However, it the path of the UK’s justice secretary Jack Straw’s correspondence that sheds a lot of light on the situation, especially considering the Labour response in Holyrood.

Posted in Europe / International, Op-eds and Scotland | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , and | 4 Comments

David Howarth MP writes… My top priorities as Lib Dem shadow secretary of state for justice

The main responsibilities of the Ministry of Justice are the criminal justice system, including prisons and probation, and constitutional reform. Crime has not been seen as a political strength for us in the past, but I believe that it could be, because we have very distinctive things to say. Constitutional reform is one of our traditional strengths, but the task there is to make it relevant to current politics.

There is a crisis in the criminal justice system of staggering proportions. The prison population is at a record high, and is eating up £ billions in public expenditure. 70% of …

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