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Welsh Government sets out plans for “inevitable” devolution of justice to Wales, including unified system of tribunals

The Welsh Government’s Counsel General, Mick Antoniw, and the Minister for Social Justice, Jane Hutt, have issued a publication outlining the potential core components of a devolved justice system.

The publication, Delivering Justice for Wales, details a range of proposals for the criminal justice system.

However, the publication also reveals that in relation to the civil and administrative courts and tribunals in Wales, the Welsh Government plans to:

  • create a unified first tier Tribunal for Wales as part of a structurally independent Tribunal Service;
  • create an Appeals Tribunal for Wales;
  • transfer appeals against school exclusions to the new first tier Tribunal (subject to consultation);
  • expand the role of President of Welsh Tribunals;
  • explore the most effective production and publication of Welsh tribunals data;
  • prepare for the impact of Mental Health Act reforms on the caseload of the Mental Health Review Tribunal for Wales;
  • engage with stakeholders to take forward recommendations of the Commission on Justice in Wales to co-ordinate and rationalise civil and administrative dispute resolution in Wales;
  • discuss with UK Government the Thomas Commission recommendations relating to coroners’ services.

Other proposals include to:

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  • consider the case for a Welsh Human Rights Bill;
  • incorporate both the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People (UNCRPD) and the Convention on the Elimination of all Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) into Welsh law;
  • expand the use of remote court hearing facilities for vulnerable witnesses into family and other civil proceedings;
  • explore radical reform of current services for children looked after and care leavers, and eliminate private profit from the care of children looked after during the next Senedd term;
  • evaluate the Family Drug and Alcohol Court pilot and consider wider rollout;
  • report on progress against the Welsh Government's programme to improve the accessibility of Welsh law;
  • work with the Law Commission of England and Wales to identify further projects relating to Welsh law;
  • make the case for the evaluation of outcomes of remote hearings and for a strategy for remote and physical access to courts in Wales;
  • commission a workforce skills needs analysis to consider the case for funding solicitor apprenticeships;
  • take forward a working group on growing the public law Bar in Wales; and
  • work in partnership with the new Law Council of Wales to improve the sustainability of the legal sector in Wales, especially in rural and post-industrial areas.

Counsel General Antoniw said: “The only sustainable way to improve the justice system is to reduce the number of people coming into contact with it. Our publication sets out the innovative ways in which we are using the powers we have, including early intervention to steer people away from the criminal justice system, and how we would seek to build on that through a fully devolved justice system.

“But the policies of successive UK governments since 2010 have firmly pulled the shutters down on access to justice, threatened fundamental rights and protections, and removed vital funding.

“We will continue to use the levers at our disposal to pursue a whole-system, person-centred approach to justice. And we look forward to justice and policing being devolved to Wales so we can accelerate this work and deliver a better system for citizens, communities and businesses across Wales.”

The Minister for Social Justice said: The clear conclusion of the independent Commission on Justice in 2019 was that policies and decisions about justice need to be determined and delivered in Wales, so they align with the distinct and developing social, health, social justice and education policy and services in Wales and the growing body of Welsh law. By joining up the justice system with the rest of Welsh policy making we can find truly effective ways of reducing crime.”

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