The IWA were commissioned by the UK’s Changing Union project in September 2013 to deliver a submission to the Silk Commission on the topics of policing and justice ahead of their final report’s release.
Over the course of two months the IWA hosted an online debate in an attempt to crowdsource this submission. The debate involved a total of 55 participants with 33 of these actively creating posts airing their views and commenting. These participants were made up of lawyers, academics, Police and Crime Commissioners, Assembly Members, MPs, third sector organisations and Government representatives. The project was chaired by the former Independent Police Complaints Commissioner, Tom Davies.
The terms of reference for this debate were developed to expressly produce a submission on these issues to the Silk Commission. The specific aims of this debate were to:
- Define the terms of justice and policing in Wales, including an assessment of whether the two sectors can be devolved separately or fully.
- Assess the consequences of devolution of justice and policing in Wales.
- Assess the potential cost implications for the devolution of justice and policing
- Assess the intergovernmental relations (IGR) implications of devolving justice and policing to Wales.
- Produce specific discussion on youth justice as a key area of justice.
The findings were developed through a crowdsourcing method, with participant’s arguments documented over the course of seven weeks. To develop these findings administrators on the site asked specific questions and allowed those on the site to debate and discuss. Our findings were subsequently based on consensus or the views of the majority of our participants.
These findings were:
Policing could be devolved but only after thorough consultation and with support from practitioners.
Prior to the devolution of policing, the Welsh Government should produce a strategy demonstrating how they would better integrate policing with existing devolved public services and achieve better joined up working.
Devolution of justice should be considered separately from the devolution of policing.
The devolution of prisons should be considered in a long-term approach.
Custodial provisions for female offenders must be established in Wales and a distinct Welsh female offender policy should be devolved. The needs of female offenders must be taken fully into account in any devolution of prisons.
The probation service is a prime candidate for devolution, given its necessary close working with devolved agencies and current concerns about possible threats to this arising from the part- privatisation of probation services under the ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ agenda. The issues are complex, and the Welsh Government should initiate a thorough prior consultation with the probation service and related agencies.
There should be a continued evolution of the England and Wales legal jurisdiction with the end goal of separate jurisdictions, incorporating an Advocate General for Wales. A Welsh representative should be appointed to the Supreme Court as soon as possible. A reserved powers model for the devolution settlement in Wales would, in the shorter term, address some of the problems associated with the current conferred powers model.
Courts should be reserved to Westminster until evidence shows that their devolution is necessary.
Executive competence for Youth Justice should be devolved following a successful implementation of the Welsh Government’s Youth Justice Bill.
These findings were submitted to the Silk Commission prior to their final deliberations. The Silk Commission’s second report was released on the 3rd March 2014 and recommended the devolution of policing and youth justice, and a ten year plan for the devolution of the criminal justice system.