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17 June 2024
Wider justice system

In this blog, our chief executive, Tom Franklin, talks about what the main parties' general election manifestos say about justice, policing and the courts.

Lady Justice. This blog is about what the main parties' general election manifestos say about justice, policing and the courts.

As the general election campaigns gather pace and 4 July approaches, the political parties that are vying for everyone’s votes have published their manifestos – these set out their policies and how they will finance them.  

Justice, policing and the courts are important parts of any government’s activities, so we’ve read the main parties’ general election manifestos – Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green, Reform UK and Plaid Cymru – and summarised what each one has to say on these areas. These lists aren’t exhaustive, but they give a flavour of the parties’ priorities, and many of them will affect the kinds of cases that magistrates – our members – will hear in their courts, and how courts operate. 


  • 8,000 more full-time police officers 
  • Cutting the court backlogs by keeping Nightingale courtrooms open 
  • Funding sitting days 
  • Investing in court maintenance. 
  • Continuing the digitization of court processes 
  • Expanding the use of remote hearings 
  • Match-funding 100 criminal law pupillages “to speed up justice for victims” 
  • Continuing to ensure access to legal aid. 
  • Tougher sentences for offences including knife crime, grooming and assaults against retail workers 
  • Further measures to crack down on “hyper-prolific offenders” 
  • They also “stand firmly behind the legal doctrine of joint enterprise” – meaning that those who assist in crimes, can be held accountable. 
  • Empowering judges to require offenders to attend hearings or face an increased sentence
  • Four new prisons providing 20,000 new places. 


  • Focus on neighbourhood policing with “thousands of extra officers”, with “the powers they need.” 
  • New ‘Respect Orders’ to combat antisocial behavior giving powers to ban persistent adult offenders from town centers. 
  • Fly-tippers and vandals will be made to clean up the messes they create. 
  • Carry out a review of sentencing. 
  • New criminal offences for assaults on retail workers, spiking, and the criminal exploitation of children. 
  • Ban ninja swords, zombie-style blades and machetes. New rules to prevent online sales, with executives of online companies personally liable. Any young person found in possession of a knife will be referred to a Youth Offending Team and have a mandatory plan to prevent reoffending. 
  • Create a new Young Futures programme, with youth workers, mental health support workers and careers advisers, to prevent young people being drawn into crime. 
  • Fast track rape cases at every Crown Court in England & Wales. 
  • Strengthen rights and protections for women in co-habiting couples and for workplace whistleblowers. 
  • Strengthen the use of Stalking Protection Orders and give women the right to know the identify of online stalkers.  
  • Make more prosecutors available by allowing Associate Prosecutors to work on appropriate cases. 
  • Conduct a strategic review of probation governance, including considering the benefits of devolved models. 
  • New protections for victims of crime and persistent antisocial behavior by increasing the powers of the Victims’ Commissioner. 
  • Use all relevant powers to build prisons, and improve prisoners’ access to purposeful activity, such as learning, and ensure they create pre-release plans for those leaving custody. Support prisons linking with local employers and voluntary sector to get ex-prisoners into work. Support for children of prisoners too. 
  • Introduce a ‘Hillsborough Law’ placing a legal duty of candour on public servants and authorities. 

Liberal Democrats  

Tackle the backlogs in the criminal courts and reduce the number of people in prison on remand by: 

  • Clear target of halving the time from offence to sentencing for all criminals, and implementing a properly funded strategy across the criminal justice system to achieve it. 
  • Implementing a new data strategy across the criminal justice system to ensure that capacity meets demand, and to understand the needs of all users, especially victims, vulnerable people and those from ethnic minority backgrounds. 
  • Developing a workforce strategy to ensure there are enough criminal barristers, judges and court staff.

Improve transparency throughout the criminal justice process by enabling all victims to request a transcript of court proceedings free of charge.  

Address youth violence and combat knife crime by: 

  • Adopting a public health approach to youth violence which identifies and treats risk factors, rather than just focusing on the symptoms. This means police, teachers, health professionals, youth workers and social services all working closely together to prevent young people falling prey to gangs and violence. 
  • Investing in youth services that are genuinely engaging and reach more young people. 
  • Making youth diversion a statutory duty so that every part of the country has a pre-charge diversion scheme for young people up to the age of 25. 

 Cut reoffending by: 

  • Ending prison overcrowding. 
  • Recruiting and retaining more prison officers. 
  • Improving the provision of training, education and work opportunities in prisons. 
  • Establishing a Women’s Justice Board and providing specialist training for all staff in contact with women in the criminal justice system. 
  • Replacing Young Offender Institutions with secure schools and secure children’s homes. 
  • Ensuring that every prison has a ‘through the gate’ mentorship programme. 
  • Introducing a National Resettlement Plan to improve the rehabilitation of people leaving prison and cut reoffending. 
  • Improving and properly funding the supervision of offenders in the community, with far greater coordination between the prison service, probation service providers, the voluntary and private sectors and local authorities, achieving savings in the high costs of reoffending.


  • On policing and civil liberties, the Greens aim to end the Prevent programme and restore public trust in the police. The party also plans to scrap the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, the Public Order Act, and other laws they believe undermine the right to protest and free expression. 
  • defend the Human Rights Act, the UK’s membership of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and continued direct access to Convention rights in the UK courts. 
  • Pledges to tackle hate crimes and support the safety of places of worship. 
  • Backing assisted dying, reforming drug laws to introduce a regulated market, and enshrining the right to clean air in law. 
  • Major investment to address both the criminal justice system’s structural issues, support victims and the accused, reduce the backlog of prisoners on remand, and minimise court cancellations and broader social injustices. This includes £11bn to restore legal aid budgets, recruit more judges, and repair the crumbling court system. £2.5bn of this £11bn is earmarked for repairing and renewing court buildings. 
  • Ensuring the criminal bar is well-funded, and to pushing for judicial diversity. 

Reform UK

  • 40,000 new police officers over the course of a five-year parliament. 
  • Police leadership teams would be reviewed and where necessary replaced, with a “strong preference” for military veterans. 
  • Increase Stop and Search “substantially”.
  • Police and Crime Commissioners would either be reformed and given sufficient powers to “make a real change”, or scrapped altogether.
  • Increase the criminal justice budget from £10 billion to £12 billion, to “ensure more high calibre staff to cut delays.”
  • Foreign criminals would be deported immediately after their prison sentence ended and citizenship withdrawn from immigrants who commit “significant” crimes. 
  • Enforcement of ‘zero tolerance’ policing. This would mean offenders received jail sentences for all violent crimes and the possession of a knife.
  • Drug dealing and trafficking will get mandatory life imprisonment. “Heavy fines” for a new offence of Substantial Possession of Drugs.
  • Automatic life imprisonment for violent repeat offenders. 
  • Abolish all diversity, equality and inclusion roles and regulations.
  • Change the definition of a hate crime.
  • High intensity training camps for young offenders, offering “basic education, training and values.”
  • 10,000 extra prison places.

Plaid Cymru  

  • Additional funding for policing in Cardiff to bring it in line with other UK capitals. 
  • Support for the full transfer of justice powers to Wales to develop a Welsh way of policing and criminal justice. 
  • Create a Minister of Justice in the Welsh Government 
  • Remove the role of elected Police and Crime Commissioners. 
  • Victims of crime and anti-social behaviour to be at the centre of justice services. 
  • Create a Victims Commissioner for Wales. 
  • Pilot a ‘courts in the community’ scheme to resolve local justice needs. 
  • Better support for people with ADHD in the prison estate. 

Commitment to prevent and reduce violence against women and girls, and support women in the criminal justice system: 

  • Create a domestic abuse register. 
  • Stop perpetrators using court proceedings to continue harassment of victims. 
  • Strengthen restraining orders and sanctions for breaches. 
  • Specialist stalking training requirements for all professionals dealing with stalking cases and unified recording system. 
  • Tighten laws around sexual images (consent not intent), increases sentences for domestic abuse and stalking offences. 
  • Review effectiveness of short sentences for female offenders 
  • Establish four community-based women’s centres across Wales to support female offenders. 

What we think 

Whichever parties form the next government after 4 July, they face a criminal justice system in its worst state in living memory. Courts are crumbling, understaffed and overwhelmed with cases; probation services are struggling to cope; and prisons are bursting at their seams.  

We want to see a fundamental review of the whole criminal justice system – policing, courts, probation, prisons, post-prison support, and rehabilitation services – that brings together all the key organisations involved, and a proper investment in the system. There are no quick fixes – what is needed is a long-term plan. We stand ready to work with the next government to improve the system for victims, witnesses and defendants. Read more in our media statement.