This week, Halsbury’s Law Exchange – and independent legal think tank – hosts an event centred on the same topic: Women in prison – is the justice system fit for purpose? Joshua Rozenberg QC will host a panel discussion where panellists John Cooper QC (barrister), Lord Beith (House of Lords), Jenny Earle (Prison Reform Trust), Baroness Kennedy (House of Lords, Chair of Justice) and Vicky Pryce (economist and former prisoner), will address some key questions facing our criminal justice system in the 21st Century. Ahead of the event, Halsbury’s Law Exchange published a paper written by Felicity Gerry QC and myself – the paper can be viewed here. Building upon a discussion paper we wrote in 2014, the 2016 paper widens the scope of the inquiry, considering issues such as criminalisation of women who are the victims of coercion, exploitation and abuse, the deficiencies in training for key actors in the system, such as judges, advocates and police, and whether or not our sentencing system could deal with women more effectively and efficiently. The paper asks a number of questions for panellists to consider and suggests potential reforms.
The topic of women in prison – and the case for reform – is one which has gathered pace over the last decade. Baroness Corston published her report in 2007, with numerous proposals for change to the system of dealing with women. Over the ensuing decade, numerous charities and advocacy organisations have dedicated time and money to this issue. Despite the general consensus that change is needed, little has been done by successive governments. Since the Oxford event in June, we have a new Justice Minister, Liz Truss. For Truss, prison reform does not seem as high on the agenda for the department as under her predecessor Michael Gove. The panellists will have to address questions of law, policy and politics in a search for answers.
The event, held at One Great George Street, London is free to attend (registration required). Please join Felicity and I for what promises to be a very interesting event.
Lyndon tweets from @Lyndon_Harris