The Policing and Justice system in Mid and West Wales is facing unprecedented review by the Westminster government in terms of consultations concerning the re-assessment of the Police Allocation Formula, a second consultation on the introduction of and expansion of increased legal fees and the proposed closure of Ministry of Justice facilities across Mid and West Wales.
Having already seen the closure of local magistrate courts, it is bitterly disappointing to be faced with yet another proposal to close more courts in rural Wales.
The provision of justice is inextricably linked to accessibility. Courts which are crucial to the strength of our communities and society, protecting those who otherwise cannot protect themselves and ensuring that justice can be expected for all, are facing closure.
With our judicial infrastructure facing closure and basic court fees being dramatically increased, the strength of our communities will diminish.
The needs of victims, defendants and legal professionals are being ignored. Proposed increases in legal costs will mean that the basic pillars of our justice system will be determined by cost and not need. Cuts to legal aid have led to the rise in litigants in person, leading to inequalities in the provision of justice and inefficiencies within the justice system itself.
Access to justice, and indeed equal access to justice is a hallmark of a civil society. It is at the heart of a democratic society. The continuous centralisation of court services away from communities undermines entirely the notion of local justice.
The Conservative government’s quest to a smaller state will ensure that the justice system in Wales will not be led by the pursuit of fairness nor accessibility, but instead by sufficiency and cost-cutting.
As your Police Commissioner, I will be on your side to uphold fair and equal access to justice throughout Dyfed Powys.