Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

If NoOffence! were Justice Secretary

Share on twitter
Share on facebook
Share on email
The design of the CJS is not evidence-led, despite some attempts to reference evidence when it fits the prevailing ‘politics’. The prevailing ‘politics’ and public attitude is one of punishment first and foremost . Any discussion is predominantly an emotional response to the harm done by those who commit crimes, bounded by vested interests and political dogma.

The latest contribution to the current blog series setting out the top three priorities for the new Justice Secretary comes from NoOffence, the UK’s leading criminal justice network. It is jointly written by Sue Clifford (@NoOffenceCIC), Chief Executive and Joe Kuipers (@joekuipers), the Chair with input from other board members.

Four fundamental questions and answers that will guide me

  1.  Do we have a Criminal Justice System (CJS), or a collection of poorly integrated, disconnected and fragmented services overseen by several Departments of State?
  2.  Is the design of our ‘CJS’ evidence-led?
  3.  How much money should we spend on reducing crime and reoffending?
  4.  Is the issue of crime one that concerns the voting public (unless they are victims) or an issue that generates intelligent public debate?


 Some answers

  1. No – the CJS is not really a ‘system’ and, with an expanding provider base, more fragmentation looks likely.
  2.  No – the design of the CJS is not evidence-led, despite some attempts to reference evidence when it fits the prevailing ‘politics’. The prevailing ‘politics’ and public attitude is one of punishment first and foremost . Any discussion is predominantly an emotional response to the harm done by those who commit crimes, bounded by vested interests and political dogma.
  3.  Generally people do not to want to pay for services that they do not personally need. Government will focus on cost reductions for the foreseeable future, coupled with increased outsourcing in the belief that this will give better value to the taxpayer. This also devolves risk to providers and reduces the ‘control’ government has over services.
  4. Generally no. The public appears variably interested in crime and justice; more so when personally involved, or in a number of cases when responding to unbalanced reporting. Crime and justice do not feature significantly in the forthcoming general election.



These four answers form the basis of my priorities. NoOffence!CIC is well placed to help me to achieve these priorities working alongside CJS partners. Now for some detail.

  1. I will work constructively with the Home Secretary and other key ministers to drive forward changes that improve the system and make the whole greater than the sum of its parts, which currently it is not.  I will be introducing a range of initiatives to tackle system weaknesses.
  2.  I will seek to achieve a coalescence of political opinion to enable a more evidence-led approach. Justice has become increasingly politicised to the detriment of victims and the taxpayer.
  3.  I will seek to obtain the same funding protection afforded to health and education and review outsourced services if they do not improve rehabilitation results and secure cost reductions. I will introduce stringent accountability systems to monitor the finances and performance of CJS players to ensure that they are telling the truth to avoid malversation through highly skilled account management.
  4. I will highlight evidence-based achievements that reduce criminal behaviour. I will drive the debate toward rehabilitative approaches over punitive ones, explaining that the reduction in crime is only achievable if those committing criminal behavior are dissuaded from doing so, something which increasing and expensive incarceration has failed to achieve.

The purpose of this blog series is to stimulate a debate about where our criminal justice system should be heading.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what the justice priorities should be.

Please use the comments section below or follow the conversation on Twitter, using the hashtag #nextGrayling

Share on twitter
Share on facebook
Share on email

Related posts you might like:

What next for justice?

Guest bloggers came from a wide range of viewpoints including several organisations with a particular criminal justice focus including prison reform, employment for women offenders, restorative justice etc. This, thankfully, made for very different priorities with limited repetition. Nevertheless, four key themes emerged from this spectrum of views.

The Justice priorities of Unlock

As things stand, a criminal record is for life, no matter how old or minor. This is despite knowing that, in particular, young people make mistakes when they’re young. In essence, young people should be allowed to fail. Ways to properly and fully ‘wipe the slate clean’ for minor offending should be established.

Big Society Capital’s priorities for the new Justice Secretary

Charities and social enterprises have a lot of value to bring in the future criminal justice system, building on the deep knowledge and experience they have gained from the work they have already done. And while an increasing number of corporates delivering public services are working to embed social values alongside their traditional aims,

If Jocelyn Hillman were Justice Secretary

My first priority as Justice Secretary would be to lead by example, hiring an ex-offender as my diary secretary. By employing women with convictions the government could reduce reoffending at no cost to the taxpayer, while also creating life-changing opportunities for some of the most marginalised people in our society.

I would ensure that ex-offenders were included in the Ministry’s diversity quotas and that my staff, from top to bottom, were engaged in understanding the importance of inclusive hiring practices. I would also ensure all government contractors were obliged to implement the same measures.

Langley House Trust’s justice priorities

As Justice Secretary I would ensure that we never lost sight of the fact that offenders are human beings – just like you and me – with basic needs which need to be properly met. I would also remember that offenders as human beings also need to have hope. Hope that as convicted prisoners they can serve their time in a constructive way

If Alex Cavendish were Justice Secretary

At the moment our prisons are a ticking time bomb that could explode into violence without warning. Frontline staff shortages and overcrowding are contributing to this explosive and toxic environment. If I were Secretary of State for Justice my first priority would be to ensure that no prison in England and Wales has less staff than it needs to operate a safe, normal regime.

All Probation Posts are sponsored by Unilink

With over 20 years’ experience in the criminal justice sector, Unilink is a world leader in probation and community corrections software applications, as well as prisoner self-service, prisoner/case management and prisoner communications. Unilink’s integrated suite of products provide a complete digital solution enabling efficient running of prisons and probation. Underpinned by biometrics it integrates seamlessly to deliver security, efficiency and value – while being proven to help rehabilitate prisoners.

One Response

  1. The only way to truly get a functioning criminal justice is to involve those that are in the system. It should not be left to politicians who simply do not have a clue and even worse have little or no interest in educating themselves about what actually goes on and how dysfunctional the system is.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

keep informed

One email every day at noon