LORD CHIEF JUSTICE: ROSE LECTURE
29 Oct 2002 06:45 PM
(Issued through the Lord Chancellor's Department Press Office)
377/02 29 October 2002
LORD CHIEF JUSTICE: ROSE LECTURE "ACHIEVING CRIMINAL JUSTICE"
Lord Woolf, the Lord Chief Justice, this evening gave the second Rose
lecture, Achieving Criminal Justice, at Manchester Town Hall.
Speaking to an audience invited by the Northern Circuit of the Bar
and the Manchester Law Society, Lord Woolf identified two problem
areas for the criminal justice system today.
The first, was the continuing failure of the players within the
system to communicate and co-operate effectively. Examples quoted by
Lord Woolf included the 1,326 occasions last year when the
prosecution was not ready to start a Crown Court trial on the
scheduled date and the problems and increased costs caused by the
late delivery of prisoners to Court.
Lord Woolf commented favourably on the piloting of new liaison
arrangements between the police and the CPS and the establishment of
video links between courts and prisons. He also recognised that there
was commitment to co-operation at the highest level within
Government. To secure further progress, Lord Woolf placed great
emphasis on the establishment of a Criminal Procedure Rules Committee
to produce a new set of rules for criminal justice and so provide a
blueprint for the preparation and conduct of criminal proceedings.
"The proper role of government is to provide the framework, while
those who have first hand experience of how the system works in
practice provide the detail. Unless those who have the experience and
the day-to-day responsibility on the ground are intimately involved
in the process of change, they will not feel the sense of ownership
which is required to make the change a success."
The second problem area identified by Lord Woolf was prison
overcrowding, described by him as "a cancer eating at the ability of
the prison service to deliver". Overcrowding prevented the Prison
Service from making effective use of the considerable skills it had
developed in respect of education, training and tackling offending
behaviour. If the Prison Service was not able to fulfill this
fundamental role, prosecuting offenders to conviction achieved
little, if any, protection for the public. The effectiveness of the
criminal justice system had to be judged by the extent to which it
could reduce the pattern of re-offending.
In analysing why the United Kingdom was currently imprisoning more
people than any other country in Western Europe other than Turkey,
Lord Woolf said the judiciary must accept some of the blame. But he
also pointed to the continuous upward pressure on sentences from
public opinion, the media, Parliament and the government of the day.
Other contributing factors included the wide-ranging impact of
decisions by Parliament to increase the maximum sentence for a
particular type of offence and the damping effect of the increasing
number of guideline judgments and Attorney General's references on
sentencers' discretion to extend leniency in particular cases. Lord
Woolf called for the proposed Sentencing Guidelines Council to be
required to produce guidelines that would result in a better match
between the number of prisoners and prison capacity. He also argued
that a wider range of community penalties (including 'community
service minus' as promised in the White Paper) would enable courts to
give offenders incentives to take part in drug rehabilitation,
restorative justice and other programmes geared to preventing
re-offending. He said
"The White Paper provides a vision of what might be achieved by
diverting offenders from crime without burdening our prisons.
However, the vision has no hope of fulfilment unless the Probation
Service is to be funded on a different scale from what is now
Lord Woolf concluded his lecture:
"We have tried a more punitive approach and that has failed. There is
an opportunity now for a different approach, a holistic approach,
which recognises that all parts of the justice system need to pull