The Queen’s Speech announced 26 pieces of legislation for the next UK parliamentary session, with crime emerging as a key domestic priority for the government.
Seven bills on the theme of law and order were unveiled including: tougher sentencing and new measures to target offenders who are foreign nationals.
The Private International Law (Implementation of Agreements) Bill was announced to provide “certainty, stability and new opportunities” for the sector.
The Domestic Abuse Bill and Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill have returned and will be part of the next legislative agenda.
No announcements were made as to the future of the courts modernisation programme.
Responding to the law and order proposals, Simon Davis, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, said: “This recognition of the importance of our criminal justice system is welcome, but victims of crime need to have confidence that it is capable of delivering justice. Due to years of neglect, it is a system at breaking point. Tens of thousands of suspects are being released under investigation with neither conditions nor limits. Crucial evidence is not disclosed in court until the last minute, often leading to adjournments. In England and Wales more than half of courts have closed. Defence solicitors have not received an increase in fees since the 1990s and are at risk of becoming an endangered species. As a result, justice is delayed for months or even years. Introducing tougher sentencing is unlikely to lead to any serious reduction in crime, nor encourage those in prison to rehabilitate. Only by investing across the board can the government reignite confidence in our ailing criminal justice system – or risk more crime falling through the cracks of investigation and prosecution.”
On the introduction of the Private International Law (Implementation of Agreements) Bill, Simon Davis said: “England and Wales continues to be a global legal centre – contributing more than £25 billion a year to the UK economy. With the announcement of this bill, we are pleased to see the UK seeking to maintain its role as a world leader in private international law.”
Commenting on of the return of the Domestic Abuse Bill and Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, Simon Davis said: “Together the bills have the potential to change millions of lives across England and Wales and we look forward to working with the government on these vital pieces of legislation. We welcome the news that these important issues will be dealt with in the next parliamentary session.”
On the absence of legislation for the court modernisation programme, Simon Davis warned: “The absence of any legislation aimed at modernising our court and tribunals system puts into doubt the future of the HM Courts & Tribunals Service court modernisation programme.”