Announcing the government's crime plan to parliament, the home secretary Jack Straw said that in order to deliver a new criminal justice 'service' every part of the existing system would be subject to reform and modernisation.
Key reforms of the criminal justice system include:
More effective policing:
an enhanced detective capability, possibly drawing on outside experience from the public or private sector;
a new joint central body to set out a police service-wide strategic approach to information technology, scientific and technical developments;
increasing public confidence with record numbers of officers, increasing police visibility and easier ways for the public to get in touch with the police such as IT links and mobile police stations.
More effective prosecutions:
increased investment in the Crown Prosecution Service - funding already set for a 23% increase in 2001-2 with more to follow;
a specialist cadre of prosecutors to deal with organised and serious crime; and
a new consolidated criminal code to improve public confidence and shorten and simplify trials.
New measures for the criminal courts:
specialist hearings, for example dealing with drugs offences or domestic violence;
extended business hours to cut delay; and
online information for court users and the public.
Protecting the needs of victims and witnesses:
court familiarisation visits and improved court waiting facilities for prosecution witnesses;
introduction of victim personal statements, so victims (including bereaved relatives in homicide cases) can give a statement in their own words saying how the crime has affected their lives;
a new role for the Crown Prosecution Service in keeping victims informed about the progress of cases;
a possible 'victim's fund' to ensure victims are more swiftly compensated;
consulting on a new victim's charter, to include whether to establish a Victims' Ombudsman to champion victims' interests; and
the opportunity for victims to report minor crime online.
Announcing the government's crime plan, the home secretary Jack Straw said: 'We have come a long way in the last few years and the foundations for a more effective system are in place. Overall crime is down, but there is more to be done.'
'Reducing crime, confronting the causes of crime and creating a more responsible society is a task beyond the criminal justice system alone. It requires concerted action across government, in local communities, in schools and in homes. But an effective, well-run criminal justice system can make a significant difference to levels of offending and crime.'
The government also announced proposals to protect communities and reduce crime by giving the courts additional powers to deal with persistent juvenile offenders.
The measures, tabled as amendments to the Criminal Justice and Police Bill, would strengthen the powers of the courts by allowing them to:
remand to secure accommodation young people who commit repeat offences on bail;
give the courts the option of using electronic tagging for juveniles on bail; and
allow juveniles remanded to local authority secure conditions also to be placed in secure training centres.
Mr Straw said: 'There have been a number of cases where young 'bail bandits' have repeatedly committed offences when on bail. The courts currently back the power to remand them to custody unless they commit a more serious offence....It is simply not acceptable that the courts have no powers to remand those juvenile offenders to custody even when they know there is a good chance that they will go straight back to their old ways on bail.'