Significant improvements and cost savings have been achieved since the Isle of Man Criminal Justice Strategy was approved by Tynwald in December 2012.
Home Affairs Minister Juan Watterson MHK has provided an update on the reforms, which are aimed at modernising processes, streamlining administration and reducing the number of low-level offences appearing before the courts.
The past year has witnessed a 21% reduction in the amount of public money spent on legal aid. Overall savings of more than £500,000 have been achieved, with the largest decrease occurring in the court duty advocate scheme. These costs have fallen by 54%, thanks to work undertaken in conjunction with the Isle of Man Law Society.
The planned introduction in April 2014 of endorseable fixed penalty tickets for certain low-level/high-volume driving offences is expected to save at least £100,000 a year, while new technology at the Attorney General’s Chambers will enhance the management of cases and reduce the time taken to get matters to court.
Other workstreams are continuing to implement the measures contained in the Criminal Justice Strategy, which was unanimously received by Tynwald in December 2012 after gaining broad support during a public consultation.
The reforms are being led by the Criminal Justice Board, which is chaired by Mark Kelly, Chief Executive of the Department of Home Affairs, and includes senior representatives of the Constabulary, General Registry, Attorney General’s Chambers, the Prison and Probation Service and the Isle of Man Law Society.
The Strategy sets out a clear direction of travel for the criminal justice system in line with the Government’s national priorities, and progress is carefully monitored by the Board.
Alternative approaches to sentencing, such as restorative justice and an adult alcohol referral scheme, are being explored to help reduce reoffending. Improvements are also being introduced to support victims, witnesses and vulnerable people when they enter the criminal justice system.
Minister Watterson said: ‘A number of achievements have already been made as a result of the Criminal Justice Strategy, which is a flagship initiative within the Department of Home Affairs. I believe it is important to challenge traditional methods to see if there are more effective ways to reduce reoffending and make the criminal justice service more accountable to its users and the taxpayer.’
He added: ‘I am convinced the criminalisation of people for drug and alcohol addiction issues is not the best use of the Courts’ time or resources. The treatment of addictions and the underlying behaviour can prevent further criminal offences being committed. I recognise that this is not an easy road to travel and will take financial commitment and a redirection of resources to a prevention strategy rather than a punishment regime. We are at the start of this work and will need the support of other departments and also acceptance that sometimes treatment rather than punishment will have the greatest benefit for our community.’
The Minister said there would also be a renewed focus on speeding up access to justice and providing a better service for witnesses and victims of crime, including a more effective way of supporting people through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme.
A review is currently taking place to identify opportunities for structural reform within the criminal justice system, in order to build on the Chief Minister’s Modernisation of Ministerial Government.
The Criminal Justice Board will make its recommendations in a report to be submitted to the Council of Ministers by 30 June.
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