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Covid-19 pandemic has shown need to look at bringing justice powers to Wales says Welsh Government

23 Mar 2021 3 minutes Read
Counsel General Jeremy Miles MS. Picture: Senedd Cymru

Labour have said that they will look to devolve powers over justice to Wales if re-elected to form the Welsh Government after 6 May.

Counsel General Jeremy Miles said that the Covid-19 pandemic had highlighted the need for more powers over justice in Wales.

The pandemic had also shown that the police, courts and people in Wales could understand the nation having its own laws that were different from England’s without any trouble, he said.

As things stand, criminal justice is non-devolved to Wales and is run on an England and Wales basis – which is a contrast to Scotland and Northern Ireland.

A commission by Lord Thomas, a former Lord Chief Justice, found in 2019 that justice should be devolved to Wales in line with Scotland and Northern Ireland and any restrictions or reservations on the Senedd’s power to legislate on all forms of justice should be removed.

Jeremy Miles said that the Welsh Government if re-elected would “take forward” the recommendations in the Thomas Report.

‘Clear need’

“In particular, our responsibility to protect public health has also led to an unprecedented rate of creation of criminal offences in devolved legislation,” Jeremy Miles said today.

“In creating these criminal offences we have been required to consider at pace what our approach should be to questions such as appropriate levels of penalties, means of enforcement and the powers of those who enforce criminal law in Wales in the light of our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.

“This process has further highlighted the flaws in the current devolution settlement which were identified by the Thomas Commission. In requiring the Government to consider the matters set out in the paragraph above, the pandemic has demonstrated the inability to sensibly extricate justice functions from other governmental functions.

“In short, it has shown the clear need for the Welsh Government to develop justice policies despite it not receiving any funding for that purpose and often not being in possession of the necessary information about performance in the justice system.

“The experience of the pandemic has also shown that, contrary to what some defenders of the status quo have previously argued, police, courts and most importantly the public in Wales are capable of understanding and managing situations where the criminal law varies between Wales and England.

“If re-elected, therefore, this Government would take forward the promised discussions on the Thomas Report, and the case it makes for devolution of justice functions.”

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