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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

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

Who are the new team at the Moj?

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Overall, this is a young and inexperienced ministerial team under the leadership of a young and inexperienced Justice Secretary. We will have to wait and see whether this means they can bring a fresh perspective or are vulnerable to being out-manoeuvred by vested interests.

Last Saturday I profiled the new Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor Liz Truss. Today’s post looks at the rest of the new ministerial team.

Who’s who at the MoJ?

Not only did Theresa May replace Michael Gove with Liz Truss but she moved (both promoted and demoted) all the junior ministers too, apart from Lord Faulks who considered Liz Truss too inexperienced to “stand up to the Prime Minister when necessary, on behalf of the judges” and resigned.

Here’s the new team in full:

MoJ team

Roles and responsibilities

As you can see, Oliver Heald is Minister for Courts and Justice (the previous post holder was Minister for the Courts and Legal Aid); Sam Gyimah is Minister for Prisons and Probation (previously Andrew Selous was Minister for Prisons, Probation and Rehabilitation); Phillip Lee is Minister for Victims, Youth and Family Justice  (taking over from Caroline Dinenage who was Minister for Women, Equalities and Family Justice).

Sir Oliver Heald – Courts and Justice

Sir Oliver Heald QC (@OliverHealdMP) practised as a barrister for over 20 years (he honed his public speaking skills at Hyde Park corner) and entered parliament in 1992.

He clearly has a sustained interest in justice and legal affairs and has been a shadow spokesperson on Home Affairs (2000-2001), shadow Justice Secretary (2004-2007) and Solicitor General (2012-2014) before losing out in David Cameron’s last reshuffle before the 2015 general election.

Sir Oliver has sat on a number of different House of Commons committees, although not the Justice Committee. His political interests are listed as: industrial relations, environment, law and order, and pensions.

Since becoming minister, he has supplied a written answer stating that the MoJ will be setting out “our proposals for a Bill of Rights in due course” which makes it appear that he will be Minister for Human Rights.

Sam Gyimah – Prisons and Probation

Sam Gyimah (@samgyimah)  worked in banking and as an entrepreneur developing businesses in the training, recruitment and internet sectors before being elected to parliament in 2010. He was a party whip from 2013-14, Secretary to the Cabinet Office from 2014-15 and Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department for Education from 2014 until moving to the MoJ earlier this month.

He appears to have no previous interest in criminal justice; his political interests are listed as: Business; Innovation and Skills; Treasury; Communities and Local Government; Education; Transport (especially aviation); Higher Education and Minerals.

Phillip Lee – Victims, youth and family justice

Phillip Lee (@DrPhillipLeeMP) is a qualified GP who was elected to parliament in 2010; he continues to work as a GP (for between 15 and 90 hours per month between September 2015 and April 2016, the latest dates for which details are available on the theyworkforyou site), and this is his first ministerial appointment.

Again, there is no obvious previous interest in criminal justice; his political interests are listed as science, energy security policy, space industry and healthcare.

Lord Keen – Advocate General for Scotland and MoJ spokeperson for the Lords

Richard Sanderson Keen has a long-standing involvement in the law having been an advocate (the equivalent of a barrister in England and Wales) in Scotland since 1980. He was chairman of the Scottish Conservative Party in 2014 and was ennobled in June 2015 when he became Advocate General for Scotland. He was the Lords spokesperson for the Home Office from April 2016 until moving to the MoJ this month.

As an advocate he was involved in many high level cases representing Rangers Football Club and Andy Coulson among others.

Conclusion

Overall, this is a young and inexperienced ministerial team (with only Sir Oliver Heald having been at Westminster prior to 2010) under the leadership of a young and inexperienced Justice Secretary.

We will have to wait and see whether this means they can bring a fresh perspective or are vulnerable to being out-manoeuvred by vested interests.

 

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5 Responses

  1. Does it matter that Justice ministers have no experience? The Criminal Justice System is a mess, a few extra dents in something that is already broken will hardly be noticed.

  2. It is perhaps slightly unfair on Ollie Heald to suggest he is inexperienced (or young). He has been involved in the justice system for over 40 years. He was involved in criminal law and other legal aid work at the Bar and continued to practice after entering parliament ‘to keep his hand in’, as he told me when I bumped into him at court one day. He was, as you point out, a shadow justice minister and Solicitor General (a post once held by Harriet Harman). Whether he is a good minister remains to be seen but in his role he has far more practical experience than would normally be expected.

    1. Agreed Stephen, that’s why I described the team as inexperienced “overall”.
      I’m not suggesting that this lack of experience necessarily means they won’t be effective, but most commentators would agree that negotiating a forward path with prisons and judges is challenging to say the least – and there’s also the much ignored probation service which is under tremendous pressure at the moment with the new reforms problematic to say the very least.

  3. Seeing as Ms Truss is a novice with no experience it would follow that those under her would need to be equally or less qualified.

    What it really needed was someone with vision and courage, Michael Gove, to continue to sort out the mess and undo Graylings failings. He was chopped because Theresa May doesn’t like him – hardly the way to run the country. I have always thought that when I employed people the last thing I wanted was warm cosy friendly yes people – I wanted the best people for the job and those who could tell me if I got it wrong.

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