Assess the purpose of the Criminal Justice System and the role of the Ministry of Justice.

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1 Assess the purpose of the Criminal Justice System and the role of the Ministry of Justice. Introduction Justice is a concept, a concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law or religion along with the punishment of the breaches of these. It is the act of being just and fair. 1 Justice in the United Kingdom is upheld and maintained by the coexistence of the criminal justice system and the Ministry of Justice. The criminal justice system provides support to the public, through a justice system which effectively brings offences to justice. The Ministry of Justice, in turn, oversees the work of the criminal justice system, working to strengthen democracy, addressing crimes by developing laws that help contribute towards a better system of justice. Criminal Justice System Criminal justice is about society s formal response to crime. 2 In the United Kingdom there are three distinctive criminal justice systems with separate procedures and agencies: England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland each have their own. 3 Although there are different governmental departments which are responsible for criminal justice in each of these three places, the purpose is the same to deliver justice for all, by convicting and punishing the guilty and helping them to stop offending, while protecting the innocent. It is responsible for detecting crime and bringing it to justice; and carrying out the orders of court, such as collecting fines, and supervising community and custodial punishment. 4 The criminal justice system exists to do just that, they work with victims and witnesses of crimes as well as punishing and rehabilitating those who commit crimes. However, fulfilling such an aim is not easy! The criminal justice system is defined specifically in terms of a series of decisions and actions taken by a number of agencies in response to crime in general. There are three key functions of criminal justice: law enforcement, courts and penal system. Law Enforcement There are a number of agencies in the criminal justice system that is responsible for enforcing the law. The police play a very significant part in this. In England and Wales, there are 43 regional police forces under the direction of a chief constable and local authorities except for the Metropolitan Police and the City of London police. The forces vary in size, with the biggest being the Metropolitan Police with over 26,800 officers, and the smallest with just over 1,000 officers. Whilst the police may perform simple tasks such as going to local schools telling them of the effects of crime, their main role is to investigate crime. The police have the power to arrest and detain suspected criminals, whilst doing so, they must also collect evidence. This will later be used to decide whether to charge or release the suspect. 5 1 Wikipedia. n.d. Justice [Online]. Available at: [Accessed 18 October 11] 2 Malcolm Davies, Criminal Justice: an introduction to the criminal justice system in England and Wales (London: Pearsons Education, 2005), p Malcolm Davies, op.cit. p Centre for Crime and Justice Studies The Purpose of the Criminal Justice System [Online]. Available at: [Accessed 18 October 11] 5 Lawsblog Assess the purpose of the criminal justice system and the role of the Ministry of Justice [Online]. Available at:

2 The law is also enforced by prosecuting agencies such as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The CPS was established in 1985 as the result of the Prosecution Offences Act It is divided into 12 areas and predominantly works with the police force. The CPS aims to Deliver a high quality prosecution service that brings offenders to justice, helps reduce both crime and the fear of crime and thereby promote public confidence in the rule of law through consistent fair and independent review of cases and through their fair, thorough and firm presentation at court. 6 The CPS enforces the law by charging and convicting guilty suspects in the criminal cases investigated by the police. By working efficiently together, the two agencies provide a more effective service, and it is for this reason that the CPS is the largest law firm in the United Kingdom. At the end of March 2006, it employed a total of 8,775 people, 30% of which are qualified prosecutors and more than 94% of all staff are engaged in frontline prosecutions. 7 The CPS completes 1.4 million cases a year in the magistrates court and 125,000 in the Crown Court. 8 Courts: making decisions A criminal case can be dealt with in one of two courts: the magistrates court or the Crown Court. Generally less serious offences go to the magistrates court, which in fact deals with 97% of all criminal cases. 9 Thus accordingly there are 400 Magistrates Courts in England and Wales. Where the case concerns a triable- either way or an indictable offence (one of a serious nature) such as: rape, murder, GBH etc. it is ultimately dealt with in the Crown Court. Youth Courts deal with the majority of cases for children aged Officials in these courts include judges, recorders, magistrates, magistrates clerks and ushers. The courts, particularly the magistrates court makes various decisions on suspects of crimes: they decide whether the defendant is guilty or not, whether the defendant should be granted bail, whether permission to detain a suspect for longer than 36 hours should be given, whether a warrant should be given to the police, and what sentence should be given to the convicted. Penal System The penal system is largely carried out by the National Offender Management Service. This consists of two distinct agencies within, the Probation Service and the HM Prison Service. Each has the same purpose of protecting the public and reducing criminal activity; particularly re- offending. This purpose is fulfilled by ensuring that the courts sentence is carried out and that everything that can be done in their power, is done to prevent re- offending. 10 Prisons are undeniably the most significant agency which carries out the penal system. Along with other agencies, prisons seek to punish and incarcerate, to monitor, control and reduce offending behaviour from criminals. 11 The Prison Service is an executive agency which is organised into 15 regional areas; in total there are 138 prisons. The HM Prison Service is responsible for 126 of these, which means that 260,000 offenders each year are under the control of the National Offender Management Service. 12 Prisons hold convicted offenders for a period of time depending on the sentence they are given. Some prisoners may hold life sentences for the offence of murder, others 6 CPS. n.d. The Criminal Justice System [Online]. Available at: [Accessed 18 October 11] 7 Lawsblog Assess the purpose of the criminal justice system and the role of the Ministry of Justice [Online]. Available at: 8 Malcolm Davies, op.cit. p Jacqueline Martin, The English Legal System(London: Hodder Education, 2010), p Lawsblog Assess the purpose of the criminal justice system and the role of the Ministry of Justice [Online]. Available at: 11 Malcolm Davies, op.cit. p Lawsblog Assess the purpose of the criminal justice system and the role of the Ministry of Justice [Online]. Available at:

3 may hold only a few months. Being locked up therefore punishes the offender as it restricts their civil rights and liberties. Thus we can see that the basic purpose of prisons is to punish the offender for the crime that they have committed. However, prisons also hold a rehabilitation function; they rehabilitate offenders of offences concerning drinking, driving, and drug abuse. The purpose of which, is to reform the offender back into society, in hope that their behaviour will be altered. Furthermore, prisons also serve to keep offenders from re- offending; as a result, keeps the public out of harms way, upholding justice. The Youth Justice Board is the penal agency for offenders under the age of 18. The Youth Justice Board works to prevent offending and re- offending by youths under the age of 18. As well as this, they aim to ensure that custody for them is safe, secure and addresses the causes of their offending behaviour. The agency focuses on 10 key areas: accommodation and resettlement, education, training and employment, health, monitoring and improving practise, prevention, research and work with victims. 13 Ministry of Justice The Ministry of Justice is a ministerial department of the government headed by the Secretary of State for Justice and the Lord Chancellor. It was created on the 9 th May 2007 and has since become one of the largest governmental departments, with over 95,000 people and a budget of 9.2 billion. Each year almost ten million people use the services in 900 locations across the United Kingdom, this includes 650 courts and tribunals and 139 prisons in England and Wales. Their works consists of criminal, civil and family justice, democracy, rights and the constitution. The central aim of the Ministry of Justice coincides with that of the criminal justice system; to protect the public and reduce reoffending, and to provide a more effective, transparent and responsive criminal justice system for victims and the public. 14 The ministry is also responsible for handling nationwide relations between the three devolved administrations; the Northern Ireland Executive, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Assembly Government and the UK government. It has the responsibility for securing the administration of tribunals in the whole of the UK and is responsible for civil liberties, freedom of information, data sharing and protection, law reform, and burial policy across the UK. However, the Ministry does not have responsibility for devolved criminal justice policy, courts, prisons or probation matters in Scotland or Northern Ireland, but only in England and Wales. In which they are responsible for dealing with all suspected offenders from the time that they are arrested, until convicted offenders are released from prison. 15 Protection of the public It has been established that the Ministry of Justice has many responsibilities. But perhaps the most important is to protect the public. One of the main methods of public protection that the Ministry of Justice oversees is the running of prisons. The Ministry manages the offenders and ensure they fulfil their required sentences. The Ministry highlights that running prisons is not just focused on punishing the offender, but also on opportunity, persuading prisoners not to re- offend: Prison is a tough punishment which deprives offenders of their liberty and forces them to live within a strict regime. It also provides offenders with an opportunity to change their behaviour, develop the skills they need to get work when they are released and make a constructive contribution to society. 13 Lawsblog Assess the purpose of the criminal justice system and the role of the Ministry of Justice [Online]. Available at: 14 Lawsblog Assess the purpose of the criminal justice system and the role of the Ministry of Justice [Online]. Available at: 15 Wikipedia. n.d. Ministry of Justice (United Kingdom) [Online]. Available at: [Accessed 18 October 11]

4 Pathways to justice The Ministry of Justice does not only ensure that justice is bought to offenders, but also victims. A victim or witness to a crime will come into contact the justice system. The Ministry of Justice attempts to reduce crime and attempts to punish offenders are the ways that justice is provided for the public and the victims. Prisons and community sentences are ways the offender can repay their debt to society. The Ministry promotes the idea that victims of crime play a key role in bringing offenders to justice by reporting crimes giving evidence in court and telling the judge about the impact of crime on them and their families. This ensures that crimes do not go unreported and victims suffer no more than they have to. 16 Conclusion The criminal justice system and the ministry of justice coincide and work relentlessly to fulfil their aims; to protect the public and reduce reoffending. This is done in many ways by the criminal justice system as has been mentioned. They enforce laws, make predominant decisions in court, have a strong penal system and thus a crime prevention system also. The ministry of justice overseas the work of the criminal justice system; working together to deliver justice for all, quickly and fairly, whilst also showing the pathway to justice. These two bodies are needed to uphold and maintain justice in the United Kingdom. 16 Lawsblog Assess the purpose of the criminal justice system and the role of the Ministry of Justice [Online]. Available at:

5 Bibliography Malcolm Davies, Criminal Justice: an introduction to the criminal justice system in England and Wales (London: Pearsons Education, 2005) Jacqueline Martin, The English Legal System(London: Hodder Education, 2010) 2%20Bovington.pdf Cit.pdf

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