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Present (via Teams)
- Rt. Hon Mark Drakeford MS
- Mick Antoniw MS (Chair)
- Jane Hutt MS
- Julie Morgan MS
Welsh Government officials
- Andrew Goodall - Permanent Secretary
- Andrew Slade - Director General, Economy, Treasury and Constitution
- Des Clifford - Director, Office of the First Minister
- Piers Bisson - Director, European Transition, Constitution and Justice
- Rebecca Dunn - Head of Cabinet Division
- James Gerard - Deputy Director Justice Policy
- Karin Phillips - Deputy Director, Community Safety
- Diane Dunning - Legal Services
- Kate Edmunds - Special Adviser
- Christopher W Morgan - Head of Cabinet Secretariat
- Damian Roche - Cabinet Secretariat (minutes)
- James Oxenham - Cabinet Division
- Merisha Weeks - Justice Policy
- Andrew Felton - Justice Policy
- Fiona Green - Justice Policy
- Adam Turbervill - Legal Services
- Louis Urutty - Communications
Item 1: Justice Transformation Programme stocktake
1.1 The Counsel General welcomed the Deputy Minister for Social Services, noting the strong portfolio links with youth justice and probation services.
1.2 The stocktake paper provided an overview of activity under the current devolution settlement.
1.3 It was reported that the Ministry of Justice had announced a review of civil legal aid. The review would consider the long-term sustainability of the civil legal aid system and was due to be published in 2024. It was noted the Counsel General would be meeting with Lord Bellamy later that day to discuss it and other matters.
1.4 A recent visit to the Speakeasy Law Centre in Cardiff was part of the work to explore the feasibility of supporting similar initiatives across Wales, and the development of a North Wales Law Centre was welcomed.
1.5 The North Wales family court pathfinder pilot was also progressing and a follow up meeting to discuss progress would be arranged with the Minister for Social Justice.
1.6 In addition, the legal sector had developed a Pro Bono Committee for Wales, which had a wide membership, but it was recognised that neither advice services nor pro bono work could substitute for a properly resourced system of legal aid.
1.7 The sub-committee heard an update about HM Inspectorate of Prisons’ harrowing report about Eastwood Park, which was sited in Gloucestershire, but hosted many women from Wales who were in custody there.
1.8 The findings of the report underlined the importance of diverting women away from custody wherever possible and the Women’s Justice Blueprint, developed jointly by the Welsh Government, HMPPS and Policing in Wales, supported initiatives such as the Women’s Pathfinder diversion scheme and engagement work with magistrates to help ensure women were not faced with unnecessary and disruptive prison sentences for minor offences. The Governor of Eastwood Park had recently stated that those serving sentences in the Prison were in fact victims.
1.9 The sub-committee recognised the value of initiatives such as the Visiting Mum Scheme, which helped children visit parents in custody, and the important role played by the Independent Domestic Violence Advisor for Welsh women at Eastwood Park.
1.10 It was agreed there was much more to be done to improve outcomes for women in contact with the justice system, but as justice remained a reserved matter at present, the government was committed to continuing its work to reduce crime and reoffending to create a better Wales for all, alongside work to progress the case for the devolution of justice in Wales.
1.11 On UK government discussions, it was reported that Lord Bellamy advised the LJC Committee that the MoJ accepted 5 of the 14 recommendations discussed as part of triage discussions.
1.12 However, it was still unclear whether this amounted to any real progress and a written explanation from MoJ was awaited before progressing discussions further.
1.13 Confirmation was awaited of a date for the first Inter-Ministerial Group on Justice, but it was likely to meet prior to Easter recess. This would be a useful forum to discuss some of the issues raised in the stocktake paper going forward.
1.14 A note on the current inter-ministerial groups being established in the justice sphere was requested, including their purpose and membership.
1.15 The sub-committee welcomed the ongoing work on justice data disaggregation for Wales and agreed to continue pressing MoJ about whether justice data dashboards produced by Knowledge and Analytical Services could be part of an automated dashboard in the future.
1.16 In noting the stocktake paper, the sub-committee agreed to share it with Cabinet.
Item 2: Draft Budget for 2023 to 2024 and Welsh Government justice-related expenditure
2.1 The Counsel General introduced the item, which asked the sub-committee to reflect on the draft budget and associated impacts on justice related activity.
2.2 The paper summarised the inherent challenges faced when keeping justice spending under review and the sub-committee noted the table at Annex B, which highlighted the allocated funding in the 2023-24 Draft Budget for some of the justice related activity as set out in the justice work programme.
2.3 The committee agreed that the position should be kept under review annually.
Item 3: Devolution of justice - next steps
3.1 The Counsel General introduced the paper, which covered actions undertaken to date as well as potential next steps in preparing for devolution and making the case.
3.2 The sub-committee agreed that full devolution of justice, as recommended by the Thomas Commission, remained the aim, but also that it was pragmatic to allocate most planning resource to those areas where there appeared most potential for a future UK government to support devolution.
3.3 The sub-committee noted that future work should focus on the practical implications for delivery once devolution of certain elements of the justice system had been achieved.
3.4 There was a breadth of experience available to call upon, including from previous commissions, and officials should glean as much knowledge and information from past events as was possible, to inform the government’s future approach.
3.5 The draft narrative was also agreed in principle.