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Present (via Teams)
- Rt. Hon Mark Drakeford MS
- Mick Antoniw MS (Chair)
- Jane Hutt MS
Welsh Government officials
- Des Clifford, Director General, Office of the First Minister
- Piers Bisson, Director European Transition and Constitutional Affairs
- Will Whiteley, Deputy Director Cabinet Division
- James Gerard, Deputy Director, Justice and Constitutional Affairs
- Karin Phillips, Deputy Director Community Safety
- Jane Runeckles, Special Adviser
- Ian Butler, Special Adviser
- Mitchell Theaker, Special Adviser
- Owen John, Special Adviser
- Christopher W Morgan, Cabinet Secretariat
- Damian Roche, Cabinet Secretariat (minutes)
- Diane Dunning, Legal Services
- Andrew Felton, Head of Justice Stakeholders
- Bethan Phillips, Justice Policy
- Merisha Hunt, Justice Policy
- Elizabeth Price, Justice Policy
- Zuzka Hilton, Justice Policy
Item 1: Justice Transformation Programme stocktake
Part 1: Update on work programme
1.1 The Counsel General introduced the item, which provided an update on progress of the programme of activity being undertaken in line with the current devolution settlement.
1.2 The sub-committee noted publication of the Law Commission’s report on the devolved Welsh tribunals on 9 December and welcomed the positive engagement from cross-party and other stakeholders with its recommendations.
1.3 Good progress had been made with the provision of remote evidence sites for victims of domestic abuse to participate in the magistrates' courts, which had been enhanced through £400,000 of Welsh Government capital funding. Work was ongoing to consider whether this could be extended to other court proceedings.
1.4 Further information was awaited on the possibility of a pilot problem solving criminal court being operated in Wales.
1.5 It was reported the second meeting of the Law Council was generally positive, with substantial progress being made in discussions on a number of issues.
1.6 The Minister for Social Justice reported on a recent meeting with the Minister for Prisons and Probation, Victoria Atkins MP.
Disaggregation of justice data
1.7 It was noted that work on disaggregating justice data was being progressed by officials, with two overarching data needs having been identified. The first of which was data that Welsh Government policy departments needed to plan and deliver services and develop policy under the existing devolution arrangements; and the second was the data required to better understand the system and allow the Welsh public, the Senedd, academics and civil society to understand and test the case for devolution, or other justice reforms.
1.8 To confirm the exact requirements, officials were undertaking a mapping exercise, which encompassed both of the above areas, while being clear about the distinction between them.
1.9 Next steps included clarifying an achievable timeline for delivery of this comprehensive workstream.
Engagement with the UK government
1.10 A recent meeting with the Parliamentary Under Secretary for Justice, Lord Wolfson had been constructive, with an agreement for further conversations to take place between officials in order to agree how the recommendations of the Thomas Commission could be taken forward.
Part 2: Other live issues
1.11 The Counsel General referred to the second section of the update paper, which provided further detail on the justice agenda.
1.12 Key points to note were the loss of a Welsh representative on the Supreme Court, following the mandatory retirement of Lord Lloyd Jones. A statutory change had been recommended by the Thomas Commission to ensure Welsh representation was maintained.
1.13 Other notable areas included work on a response to the UK government’s Human Rights Act consultation, where a notable amount of engagement from civic society had been observed in Wales.
1.14 In relation to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, it was reported that further supplementary legislative consent motions were likely to be required, as further amendments were being sought around unauthorised encampments and limiting the right to protest.
1.15 Other notable areas of work were the challenges that would arise from the UK government’s drugs and prisons strategies. Consideration was being given to responding to those to ensure the Welsh perspective was included in the final strategies.
1.16 In thanking officials for the update paper, the sub-committee agreed it would be useful for the paper to be considered on a regular basis, and to be considered by the Cabinet at the next available opportunity.
Item 2: Justice plan publication
2.1 The Counsel General introduced the draft publication, which reported on progress so far in improving justice system outcomes. The publication provided detail of the breadth of work underway and indicated the direction of future travel.
2.2 The sub-committee thanked officials for their work to date on this comprehensive draft that covered a significant range of actions.
Item 3: Reducing reoffending
3.1 The Counsel General invited the Minister for Social Justice and her officials to introduce the item.
3.2 It was reported the strong partnership approach between Welsh Government, HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), Youth Justice Board and Police & Crime Commissioners had been pivotal to both the development and implementation of the justice blueprints.
3.3 These relationships had been further strengthened during the pandemic, as close working with key justice partners and service providers in Wales had continued.
3.4 It was suggested that taking forward this workstream in partnership with HMPPS was key, ensuring the work added value for them and consolidated the strong partnerships that had been built. It also needed to consider and build on the existing learning from work such as the Youth Justice and Female Offending Blueprints.
3.5 This was an opportunity to build on existing insights and further improve outcomes for people in Wales. Collaborating with expert partners in the justice system was the best way to deliver on this agenda.
3.6 The Sub-Committee welcomed the approach to this workstream.