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My hopes for the Criminal Justice System in 2019

By Mark Blake

Within a context of trepidation hanging over our divided country my hope is that whatever emerges after what promises to be a tumultuous year, Britain can find the leadership, humility and candour to acknowledge that the grave injustices in our criminal justice system requires a different approach

As the UK heads towards making the biggest economic and political changes since 1945 there has been a great deal of musing on historical precedents. However, there has been little commentary or informed, reflective discussion on the root causes that have led us to this position since 2016.

2018 will undoubtedly be viewed in generations to come as the year dominated by the national angst created by the country’s decision to leave the EU. But on the domestic front the rise in violent crime, and particularly serious youth violence, has brought into focus a series of challenges that impacts on all young people but particularly affects our most vulnerable young people, from school exclusions, to deteriorating mental health and the consistently poorer outcomes across public bodies for BAME children.

The crisis within our prisons and justice system has shown no signs of receding. Having worked around these issues over the past seven years, with a focus on outcomes for BAME communities, I am not particularly surprised at this. The impact of eight years of sustained funding cuts has had has been downplayed as a key factor by our politicians, public bodies and civil society organisations.

But austerity is only part if however a major contributor to the current crises.

More fundamental has been how our justice system has focused on punitive, responses to problems that in my view are intrinsically bound up with growing economic inequality and unfairness in our society and institutions. Whether introducing pepper spray into our jails or increasing stop and search on black children on London’s streets, the emphasis invariably is on enforcement which rather than examining the difficult root causes.

If we are to resolve these intractable problems we must place engagement with those individuals and communities most affected by these challenges at the heart of our policy.  Sincere engagement with them could start to address the root causes and build genuine trust and confidence in our justice system from all communities.

It’s my genuine hope for the year ahead is that from all this uncertainty can emerge some hope for the future.