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Welsh Government to press ahead with plans to devolve policing and justice

26 Jun 2024 4 minute read
Police officer in Wales.

Emily Price

The Welsh Government will press ahead with plans to devolve policing and justice despite the Shadow Welsh Secretary’s refusal to commit to such plans.

During questions to the Counsel General in the Senedd on Tuesday (June 25), Mick Antoniw said, “pursuing the case for the devolution of justice as a whole is still a priority of this government”.

It comes a week after the most senior Welsh Labour MP in Westminster, Jo Stevens, branded such move as as “fiddling around with structures and systems” during a general election interview.

Speaking to S4C’s Catrin Haf Jones, she said: “No one would be forgiven for trying to rip up and reconstruct the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice at a time when crime is blighting our streets.”

Support

Handing over the responsibility of police, courts and prisons to Wales is a commitment in the Welsh Government’s Programme for Government 2021-26 and is supported by Plaid Cymru.

The Welsh Government says its “ultimate objective” is to pursue the devolution of justice “entirely” but that a “phased approach” is the only “practical” way to manage it.

It has been supported by several independent or cross-party commissions including the Thomas Commission (2019), the Silk Commission (2014) and most recently the Commission for the Constitutional Future of Wales (2024).

However, the devolution of justice to Wales it is not included in Labour’s manifesto for the UK general election.

In order for justice and policing to be devolved to Wales there needs to be an initial agreement between the the government in Westminster and the Welsh Government – then legislation to make it happen.

‘Waste of time’

Raising Ms Stevens interview during Plenary, Plaid Cymru’s Mabon ap Gwynfor asked the Counsel General if he believed that the devolution of justice was a “waste of time”.

Speaking about Ms Stevens interview, the Welsh Government’s chief legal advisor said: “These comments are often made during the course of general elections, and they’re made sometimes without the benefit that I think we all now have of, for example, the review that was led by Carl Foulkes, the former chief constable of north Wales.

“This is an ongoing debate, it’s a debate I believe will be pushing in the right direction, and I’m confident that, over time, policing. will be naturally seen to be part of that natural devolution.”

In November 2023, Mr Foulkes, was appointed to lead on work to develop a future vision for policing in Wales.

The work involved extensive consultation with key stakeholders across policing in Wales, public services and the third sector.

It will be used to inform a long-term vision for what a devolved policing service in Wales could look like, considering the possible policing models and relationships with existing infrastructure.

Crime

Shadow Counsel General Mark Isherwood pointed out that policing in Scotland and Northern Ireland are already devolved.

But he argued that the situation in Wales is “entirely different” because crime patterns between England and Wales operate on a cross-border, east-west basis.

He asked: “Why, therefore, is the Welsh Government devoting so much time and resource to devolution of policing and adult justice to Wales when it’s cutting key budgets elsewhere?”

Also raising the S4C interview, Mr Isherwood claimed that the Shadow Welsh Secretary had “joined the Conservatives in rejecting fresh calls” for the Welsh Government to be given control of policing and adult criminal justice.

The Counsel General disagreed with Mr Isherwood’s comparison of policing in Wales and England and Scotland and Northern Island.

He said: “We have the devolution of policing in places like London and, of course, the devolution of powers relating to policing in places like Manchester. They also have quite significant borders, and so on.

“In terms of priorities, as we move towards greater devolution, policing will have a certain place at a particular time. For me, at the moment, the most important areas in terms of work that is going on will be the devolution of youth justice and probation.”

In a progress report publishing in February on reforming the justice system in Wales, the Welsh Government said: “The Commission on Justice in Wales (the Thomas Commission) concluded in 2019 that the design and delivery of justice policy should be devolved to Wales, and that the commitment to pursue this objective is enshrined in our Programme for Government for 2021-2026.”

Shadow Welsh Secretary Jo Stevens did not wish to comment.


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Gwyn Hopkins
Gwyn Hopkins
17 days ago

Wales is the only country or state in the world whose government can pass laws but can’t administer them or police them. Moreover, Wales sticks out like a sore thumb regarding these matters, for all countries/states of the British Islands – Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man – control their own criminal justice system and police. This is just one of many examples of UK government discrimination against Wales. The only equitable and sensible answer to devolution for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is to standardize it – to that of Scotland (at least).  
 
 
 
     
 

Riki
Riki
17 days ago
Reply to  Gwyn Hopkins

And has no one wondered why we must be so unique in this? Because we are Britons. We are Englands real jewel in their crown. While Wales is attached and while they use the title Prince of Wales, they can claim to be British. This is the real prize in which they want. A complete adoption of all things British – even that which pre-dates England. In fact, that especially!!!

Rhddwen y Sais
Rhddwen y Sais
17 days ago

Quick lads head for the border. Heddlu wilna be able to touch us then.

Geraint
Geraint
17 days ago
Reply to  Rhddwen y Sais

I’m sure no one is saying or thinking that in London and Manchester where Policing is devolved.

Mr Williams
Mr Williams
17 days ago

Respect to Mick Antoniw. He would make a great First Minister.

Michael
Michael
17 days ago

Devolution is the only way to stop miscarriages of justices from happening and holding those accountable for causing previous miscarriages of Justice since at least 1982 to present day. There has been 11 miscarriages of Justices that have been proven in Wales yet no one has been held to account for these grave injustices it cannot continue. Only A Judicial Inquiry into past wrong doings are going to make the system own up to these injustices and hold those responsible for causing them. It’s not just the police who have been responsible for what has happened Solicitors.barristers and even the… Read more »

Riki
Riki
17 days ago

Crime will always be present, using it as an excuse not to de-shackle us from England is lunacy and devoid of any meaningful logic. This can also be applied to the argument that we can’t gain independence because we will be too poor, when in reality, being in the UK is exactly what is contributing to making us so poor.

Rhddwen y Sais
Rhddwen y Sais
17 days ago
Reply to  Riki

I think it far more likely England will get independence before Wales.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
17 days ago

How can a country function properly when another proxy controls its Criminal Justice System. It’s absolutely ridiculous? And why we even have to ask Whitehall to devolve what’s rightfully ours to control unacceptable when England , Scotland & Northern Ireland all have the power but only we are denied. So when Labour becomes the UK Government and they maintain the hostility towards Wales regarding further devolution will be interesting to hear the excuses Vaughan Gething & Welsh Government come out with when Welsh Secretary Jo Stevens takes up the anti -devolution baton from David TC Davies. Personally speaking. If Jo… Read more »

Welsh Patriot
Welsh Patriot
17 days ago

Maybe they could start by investigating why a Labour MS was driving around in a car with two false number plates on, a story that Nation.Cymru seems to have missed?

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