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Start date still not set for royal commission

By February 11, 2022February 16th, 2022Criminal, Government

More than two years after it was initially announced, the anticipated royal commission on the criminal justice system still has no set start date.

Lord Wolfson, the Justice minister, notified the House of Lords that the government still plans to host a commission, which was made public in the Queen’s speech in December 2019, but mentioned that due to coronavirus, it has been delayed.

‘Due to the pandemic, we slowed work to establish the royal commission,’ he noted. ‘Significant new programmes of work were established to support recovery and build back a better system. In the last six months, we have undertaken several new programmes. All our focus is on delivering these priorities over the coming months.’

Lord Ramsbotham, Crossbench peer a former chief inspector of prisons, who initially questioned timings in July 2020, stated: ‘I regard it as extremely discourteous of the government to ask Her Majesty the Queen to make an announcement which they had no intention of implementing.’

In response, Wolfson said: ‘Since the Queen’s speech in 2019, there has been a small matter of a global pandemic, which has affected the criminal justice system very substantially.’ ‘It is a little unfair to say and, in fact, inaccurate to say that we had no intention of implementing that,’ he further noted.

The former president of the family division, Baroness Butler-Sloss, simply asked: ‘When is it intended to start the royal commission?’

Wolfson replied: ‘I’m afraid I can’t go any further than [what] I have already said. We are looking at it. What we want to do is make sure that we actually maintain our current programmes.’

A former MP Conservative peer, Lord Forsyth, questioned how the pandemic or other work within the Ministry of Justice would have interrupted the establishment of the royal commission or its running.

Wolfson commented: ‘As I understand it, the royal commission would need significant resource from the department and, indeed, the people who are working on the royal commission were deployed to other work during the pandemic and that is what they are still doing.’

He additionally said: ‘We are still focused, in due course, [on] having a royal commission on criminal justice.’

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