Priority A - Access to Justice
There can be no real justice if access to justice is denied. The UK Government’s Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 drastically reduces the availability of free legal advice throughout the communities of Wales. Those without means to pay for face-to-face advice, in many cases, will not be able to access advice at all.
Action will be needed to alleviate the pressure on this foundational pillar of our society. Access to justice can and should be safeguarded for the most vulnerable by allocating appropriate resources and by continuing to encourage local authorities to support local free legal advice providers. Such arrangements are already in place and illustrate that positive cooperation between Welsh and Local Government with service providers can work to preserve fair access to justice.
Priority B - Restorative Justice
We commend the principle of restorative justice as a tool of reparation to communities affected by crime. This principle was utilized in post-apartheid South Africa to confront wrongs against the community and to provide healing and restoration between those affected.
In Wales, with many communities suffering from the effects of crime, restorative justice initiatives offer a progressive solution to deep wounds that otherwise may remain un-treated for generations. It also offers hope for the genuine reform and transformation of those who commit crimes; so it is important to support and facilitate initiatives that seek to increase social cohesion and community rehabilitation along the principles of Restorative Justice.
In the following issues, we recognise that the Welsh Assembly’s direct responsibility for justice issues is limited, but hope influence can be brought to bear on the Westminster government regarding -
Priority C - Indeterminate sentencing
We believe indeterminate sentencing is unjust, especially when its implementation is neither transparent nor open to challenge. It leaves potentially arbitrary power in the hands of unaccountable individuals, and the uncertainty it creates in the minds of prisoners appears to be a barrier to their ability to prepare for life beyond prison. At the very least, the reasons behind reviews of indeterminate sentences should be explained and open to appeal.
Priority D - The detrimental effects of 'Health & Safety' litigation culture.
There is of course a continuing need for some legal redress for major injury and loss caused by gross negligence. Nonetheless, the growth of a Health and Safety litigation culture brings a whole range of unwanted and unhelpful consequences – from schools and youth clubs that are no longer confident to organise outings and events, to rising insurance costs that largely pay lawyers’ fees, to costs to the NHS that threaten treatment levels. None of this is helpful, affordable or just, and decisive action is needed in order to curb it.
Justice is a core Christian value – "What does the Lord require of you? To act justly..." (Micah 6:8). One of the striking distinctives of God’s people in the Old Testament was that every member of the community stood equally under the demands of justice: the highest government and the most marginalised immigrant alike were accountable to God’s law, and merited its protection.
Christians inherit this view of justice as a universal God-given right and imperative, and we continue to affirm the equality of all people before the laws of society and of God. We also affirm the biblical perspective that justice is served not just when the wrongdoer is punished, but also when sound and just values prevail.