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Problem-Solving Courts (PSC) - Rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic

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Senior Partner, Paul Harris, comments on the Governments "ground breaking" new proposals announced on 17 July 2022 to address drug and alcohol addicted crime in new "Problem Solving Courts (PSC)"  The Government's press release can be found in full here: Government Press Release

The Ministry of Justice after 12 years of Conservative rule have announced their latest cutting edge initiative, which is to introduce something that in reality already exists.

The new "Problem-Solving Courts" to combat drug and alcohol fuelled crime, will include sentences which include intense supervision and testing to support rehabilitation. However we already have community orders that allow for that and we have had those for many years.

There will be strong sanctions for those who transgress according to the “new initiative”. Again we have breach courts and review courts where Judges order defendants to come to court every month so as to monitor the progress they are making. In short other than a few changes the Lord Chancellor is trying to sell something as a new exciting initiative which effectively is already provided for. Earmarking specific courts to deal with such matters will hardly affect the framework which is already in place.

The whole essence of the scheme as promoted by the government is to turn such offenders away from crime and protect the public.

But how does that work if the very class of offender who might benefit from such an order will not be sentenced probably for years after the actual offence. The truth of the matter is that if the MOJ and government were really committed to addressing alcohol and drug fuelled crime they would be doing everything they can to ensure that those offenders who might benefit from such orders appeared before the court as quickly as possible so as to prevent further offending.

With the current backlog, there is a real possibility that said offender may have committed a number of similar offences by the time they come to court for the first matter.

I wonder who is going to really fall for this? It is simply wasting money on reinventing the wheel whilst the system literally falls apart. It is almost ironic to be introducing "problem solving courts" when the courts cannot solve most of their own problems.

As the MOJ rearrange the deckchairs on the titanic, the real problem is that there is now simply not enough lawyers to process the cases. Not enough to prosecute, not enough to defend and eventually not enough judges. As this gets worse, there will be greater delay and less and less confidence in the criminal justice system.

The consequence of this in conjunction with other factors  is that those who want to offend will do so in the knowledge that there is less chance of being caught, charged and ending up in court in a reasonable time. So little deterrence really and increasing crime.

The Criminal Bar are on strike this week and court staff are threatening to join them. If the government are really serious about addressing the causes of crime they might start by simply getting the courts working again and paying those who keep them going a proper wage.

Paul Harris is the Senior Partner of Edward Fail, Bradshaw & Waterson

Problem-Solving Courts (PSC) - Rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic

View profile for Paul Harris
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