Minister promises criminal justice 'service'

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The policing minister, Nick Herbert, says that he wants the criminal justice system to achieve the same level of trust as the NHS. But he warned that the police and prison service will have to deliver more with less money.

Mr Herbert, speaking at the centre-right think-tank, the Policy Exchange, in London, said he was announcing a "determined and radical" overhaul of how the nation deters, punishes and rehabilitates criminals.

"We understand that crime matters and that people care deeply about it. It destroys individual lives and whole communities – for some people, crime has made life not worth living," he said.

"This Government is determined to put law and order where it belongs in the national agenda: right at the top. We must ensure that people can once again have faith that crime is being tackled, offenders are being punished and reformed, and that Britain is becoming a safer place in which to live."

Mr Herbert admitted that the number of victims of crime in Britain is "extremely high" compared to the rest of Europe.

He also said that the Government will soon announce plans aimed at restoring trust in crime figures, publishing them in a manner which people agree gives a more accurate picture of reality.

And in an echo of David Cameron's Big Society, Mr Herbert said that parents should take responsibility for their children and that the public should play their part through neighbourhood watch schemes, volunteering or simply reporting crimes and antisocial behaviour.

He added: "We can't change everything overnight, and we can't do it by tinkering or spending yet more public money. Instead we have to embark on a determined and radical programme of criminal justice reform."

Mr Herbert said that police, prison staff, probation workers, magistrates and judges should enjoy the same respect as nurses, doctors and other medical staff.

He said: "Like the NHS, perhaps it is time to tell the public directly that this is not a criminal justice system, opaque, unaccountable and distant, but a criminal justice service, which exists to serve and protect them, just as much as it exists to serve the interests of justice.

"I want this to be a service in which communities and professionals alike take pride, where we are united with common cause and shared values. And I want it to be a service which never stops thinking about the interests of victims who suffer when, frankly, we don't succeed in tackling crime."