By looking at the justice system as a whole JUSTICE is able to see the wider impact of small changes as well as particular problem areas. We work collaboratively with other criminal justice focused organisations, for example in relation to prisons and youth justice, and in doing so can see where reform is most needed but also where there are neglected issues tin which we can effectively seek change.
Over our almost sixty year history we have contributed to a change in approach to many areas of criminal practice, for example, restorative justice, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, and policing powers.
System change is currently necessary in a number of places that we have identified and prioritise as areas in need of reform.
• Serious and white-collar crimes are often resulting in lengthy and complex trials due to the nature of investigation and volume of relevant evidential material. As a consequence, these investigations and trials are incredibly resource intensive and place great pressure upon defendants and witnesses pending the outcome of the process. In particular they place an undue burden upon jurors and the court in trying to reach a fair verdict over many weeks and months. In recent years there have been calls for abolition of jury trials in these types of case. JUSTICE has historically opposed this solution to the problem. We will spend the next year reviewing the processes involved in these trials to see if through practical changes in approach it is possible to reduce the length and complexity, and thereby the burden upon all actors in the process.
• Mental health is increasingly being identified as an area deserving of wholesale reform. There is a mismatch between the approach to people with mental health difficulties in the criminal justice system – from fitness to plead and communication during trial, to actual defences to criminal acts – and the advancement of treatment in the medical sector. We will be working to ensure that people with mental health and learning difficulties are appropriately diagnosed and treated by the criminal justice system; taking an active role in their trial where they can, and being diverted away from the criminal justice system where they cannot.
• Compensation for miscarriages of justice was an area JUSTICE looked at in 1982, recommending an independent and transparent process of recompense for wrongful imprisonment. Since then it has become increasingly difficult to obtain compensation where a person has had their conviction quashed. We are looking at whether compensation should be more widely available, but also the level of compensation made available, whether this is sufficient and how accessible and fair the process of awarding compensation is?