Justice should be “new public service front”, Straw says

Justice secretary Jack Straw outlined his ambition to make justice a “new front in public service” at the Labour conference in Manchester today.

Mr Straw said the justice system would be transformed from a “bureaucratic system” to a public service through a culture change which succeeds in “lifting the veil”.

He wants those on community service to be much more visible to the public and so is proposing a very literal solution – high visibility jackets for all those on such sentences.

When it comes to excessive fees charged by lawyers in ‘no win, no fee’ arrangements Mr Straw plans a crackdown.

“It’s claimed they have provided greater access to justice, but the behaviour of some lawyers in ramping up their fees in these cases is nothing short of scandalous.”

Other changes announced today are the abolition of fees which newspapers have paid for court lists and the publishing of court records online.

And a new bill this autumn will continue the “quiet revolution” begun in 1997 to “transform services for victims and witnesses”.

Mr Straw spent the final section of his speech attacking the Conservatives’ proposals and their claim that Britain’s society is “broken”.

“Contrary to the evidence, the Tories now accuse us of creating a ‘broken Britain’. It shows how little they’ve changed,” he added.

“Running the country down when they were in power – and now trying to run it down just to gain power.”

Labour claims the Tories have changed their image but not their beliefs. An attack on their law and order policies estimates their proposals will require a net additional 17,803 prison places, costing at least £2.7 billion.