Why Welsh control of policing and justice would let us tackle the underlying causes of crime
Rhys ab Owen, Senedd Member for South Wales Central
Dafydd Llywelyn, Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commissioner
Wales is the only nation in the UK without powers over its policing and justice systems.
Policing is devolved in Scotland, Northern Ireland and even Manchester – so why not Wales?
If we had powers over Welsh police forces here in Wales, we would receive an additional £25 million a year, the equivalent of 900 extra police officers.
It really is not good enough that Wales is at the mercy of Westminster’s police funding formula which gives more money to big cities in England.
After over twenty years of devolution, it is also inconsistent that the Welsh Government does not have full control over criminal justice matters.
We will press for full devolution of criminal justice matters – the police, prisons, probation, and the courts so we can create a fairer and more equal justice system.
That is why today Plaid Cymru will challenge Mark Drakeford during First Minister’s Questions on the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission of Justice in Wales.
We support the creation of a Welsh legal system. Due to the spending cuts by the Westminster Government, the Welsh Government is contributing almost 40 per cent of the justice spending in Wales, despite justice not being a devolved field, which is unsustainable.
If we had a Welsh legal system, we could allocate investment in a coordinated way with devolved areas such as health and education, cut down on the complexity that results in a waste of resources; bring an end to incoherent and unaccountable policy making.
Welsh control of justice and policing will allow us to bring forward a new approach to justice. Currently inequality is built into the heart of our justice system our aim will be to create a Welsh criminal justice system with problem solving justice initiatives that tackle the root causes of offending at an early stage, focusing on prevention rather than retribution.
Plaid Cymru continues to take a preventative approach to tackling crime, collaborating across health, criminal justice, and education as the most effective way of tackling youth offending.
Addressing the underlying causes of crime, such as protecting children from abuse or neglect, and tackling child poverty is proven internationally to reduce criminal behaviour.
Although Wales does not have control over criminal justice, Plaid Cymru Police and Crime Commissioners have used the powers at their disposal to redirect people away from the criminal justice system towards pathways that will help with rehabilitation, reduce recidivism, and tackle the underlying causes of crime.
Using restorative justice approaches in Dyfed-Powys, including face-to-face meetings between victim and perpetrator, has resulted in a victim satisfaction rate of 85 per cent.
Plaid Cymru believe that prison should be the last option for non-violent crimes, rather than the default option. Our Police and Crime Commissioners will do what is in their power to bring Welsh prisoner levels closer to the Western European average.
Wales has the highest incarceration rate in western Europe, with one in every 667 people in the country behind bars.
These figures were uncovered by the research of Dr Rob Jones from Cardiff University, rather than from UK and Welsh Government collated figures.
The situation has been made worse by the Coronavirus pandemic.
On 27 March 2020, 17 days after COVID–19 was declared a global pandemic, Dr Jones work uncovered that the number of people held in Welsh prisons had reached its highest point ever. The imprisonment rate in Wales was 163 per 100,000 compared to 139 per 100,000 in England. Swansea prison was recorded as the most overcrowded prison in England and Wales.
Ministry of Justice data showed that, on the 24 April 2020, 25% of confirmed and 22% of probable COVID-19 cases in prisons in England and Wales are in Welsh prisons.
Boris Johnson’s Government plans for early release of prisoners because of the virus, forgets the impact this will have on the Welsh health system and for councils to deal with housing issues.
We need our own legal system to address the split in responsibilities between the Westminster Government for justice in Wales, and the Welsh Government for social, health, education, and economic development policies.