Devolution a ’necessary step’ towards a better Welsh criminal justice system, academics argue

The pathologies of the Welsh criminal justice system can only be properly addressed by devolving powers to Wales, academics from Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre conclude.

In their new book, The Welsh Criminal Justice System, Dr Robert Jones and Professor Richard Wyn Jones draw upon interview evidence, existing academic work, and official data to provide the first academic account of the Welsh criminal justice system.

The results they say, show a system that performs very poorly and in which effective policy-making is rendered difficult.

Dr Jones said: "On many key measures we uncover that the Welsh criminal justice system performs even worse than that of England, a country with a well-deserved reputation as among the worst performers in western Europe. We see higher rates of violent offences, disturbing data on race throughout the system, higher rates of incarceration than in England, and a higher proportion of the population subject to some kind of probation supervision.

"Overall, we cannot avoid the conclusion that the way that the Welsh criminal justice system is organised is structurally and endemically dysfunctional."

The book explores the "highly unorthodox set of constitutional arrangements" that underpin the Welsh criminal justice system.

Professor Wyn Jones explained: "The Welsh criminal justice system remains stranded in a kind of constitutional limbo or no-man’s-land: neither quite Westminster’s nor Cardiff Bay’s. As a result, this is a policy area in which the writs of both levels of government are constrained not only by problems inherent to criminal justice, but as a direct consequence of a unique and overly complex set of constitutional arrangements.

"Devolving justice does not of itself guarantee a better functioning Welsh criminal justice system, but the current system is failing Wales, its people and its communities, very badly. And there is no prospect of those failings being addressed in any serious and systematic way until justice is devolved."

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