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Plaid Cymru to issue call for devolution of justice to Wales

29 Nov 2023 3 minute read
Liz Saville Roberts during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons. Photo UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader and Justice spokesperson, Liz Saville Roberts, will call for the devolution of justice, during a debate on the state of the prisons system in Wales at Westminster today (29 November).

The debate follows the publication of a report by Dr Robert Jones of Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre earlier this month, which showed that the number of people sleeping rough post-release has more than trebled in a year.

Unseen data

This report is the latest in a series of publications focusing on the Welsh criminal justice system, which began in 2018, drawing together information published by the Ministry of Justice, as well as previously unseen data which has been obtained from the Ministry of Justice via the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Further findings also show that Wales has a significantly higher “in country” imprisonment rate than other parts of the UK at 177 per 100,000 of the population.

This is followed by England (146), Scotland (146) and Northern Ireland (100).This calculation, taken from 2023 figures, is based on the number of people held in prison within that country’s borders.

In crisis

Ms Saville Roberts said: “The criminal justice system in Wales is in crisis: overcrowded, under-resourced, and plagued by problems from drugs to soaring suicide rates. It fails at its core purpose of making society safer, and too often has the opposite effect.

“Dr Robert Jones’ report highlights a shocking reality—post-release, the number of people sleeping rough has more than trebled, revealing a system in shambles.

“We know that homeless ex-prisoners are significantly more likely to reoffend that those living in housing. This cycle, where homeless people are imprisoned briefly only to be dumped back onto the streets, benefits no one.

“On many key measures, the Welsh criminal justice system performs even worse than that of England, which itself has a reputation as one of the worst performers in western Europe.

“There are higher rates of violent offences, higher over-representation of black and Asian people and increased incarceration rates compared to England.

“All of these problems are compounded by an overly complex constitutional division of responsibilities between Westminster and Cardiff, leading to confusion and incoherence in justice and policing in Wales.

“This complexity not only burdens bureaucracy but complicates and negatively impacts people’s lives.

“Today, I will make the case for the devolution of justice to Wales based on hard, cold facts. I look forward to asking the UK Government to justify the trebling of homelessness rates for ex-prisoners. Why is it the case that Welsh women are held in 11 of the 12 women’s prisons in England in December 2022 – at an average of 101 miles away from home?

“And why does a prison in Wales hold men from 75 local authorities outside what it was built to serve? Is it right that local councils and the Welsh Government have to fund services such as healthcare for prisoners without having any powers over justice? These are pressing questions that must be answered.”

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