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HOME AND LEGAL AFFAIRS POLICY

In accordance with our previously stated policy that all Cabinet Ministers must be answerable to the House of Commons, it is our intention to abolish the existence of the Lord Chancellor's Department and replace it with a single new Department of Home and Legal Affairs with its own Secretary of State answerable to the House of Commons. The Lord Chancellor, however, would retain a role as Chairman of the House of Lords Judicial Committee and as Speaker of "The House of Lords", so long as this commanded the support of the majority of its members. It is improper that any Government Minister should also exercise a judicial role in deciding cases in the highest Court of Appeal and feel it appropriate, therefore, to take these steps to separate the running of the Legal System from the Lord Chancellor's judicial role.

OUR PROPOSALS

Police

  • Rationalisation of management structure to release more money for additional officers on the beat.

  • Review of Police and Criminal Evidence Act, to ensure that the same is not unduly burdensome so as to hamper Police operations.

  • Retention of County Police Forces, but better liaison between individual areas.

  • Liability for misconduct/negligence of Police officers to remain in existence, despite subsequent retirement, for matters arising during period of service.

  • Police Force to remain generally unarmed, but increase in numbers of specialised fire arms units to combat serious crime.

  • Campaign to recruit more high calibre police officers, including from ethnic minority communities.

Prisons

  • Greater emphasis to be placed on punishment of offenders rather than necessarily rehabilitation

  • Crackdown on possession of drugs and other illegal substances within prisons.

  • Early release/parole to be granted more selectively, based on conduct of offender and likelihood of re-offending.

  • Recruitment of additional prison officers to maintain order, where necessary.

  • Individual sentences to reflect more accurately seriousness of crime - life to mean life.

  • Prisoners to be gainfully employed within prison and hence able to make a contribution towards their own subsistence.

Immigration

  • Limits on numbers of persons seeking to become resident in Britain, based on criteria as to whether they are likely to be a financial drain on resources, or create unemployment amongst existing citizens.

  • Grants of political asylum to be severely limited to cases where actual life threatening situations exist.

Courts

  • Appointment of additional Stipendiary Magistrates to make greater use of lower courts.

  • More precise and detailed sentencing guidelines for judges/magistrates, although final sentencing decisions to remain at their discretion.

  • Monitoring of individual performances of judges/magistrates to check adherence of individuals to any recommended guidelines issued.

  • Reductions in delays of cases coming to trial.

  • Review of small claims procedure in County Court to ensure financial limits do not deny proper access to justice for all.

  • More serious penalties for causing death by drink or dangerous driving.

Legal Aid

  • Scrapping of system of contracting/cash limiting for Legal Advice and Assistance and Civil Legal Aid.

  • Legal Advice to be available through all suppliers who can demonstrate compliance with reasonable quality assurance standards.

  • Encouragement of specialisation within Legal Advice system to ensure better use of resources.

  • Investigation into the level of payments by Legal Aid Board to Queen's Counsel and senior barristers.

  • Restriction of the availability of Legal Aid to convicted criminals unless clear new evidence justifies further expenditure.

  • Enquiry into the possibility of block contracting/compulsory competitive tendering in legal services but change to the system only to be made if this commands majority public support.

  • Review of operations within Legal Aid Board with a view to achieving more effective use of resources.

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