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Judiciary

Oral Answers to Questions — Constitutional Affairs – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 28th February 2006.

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Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Labour, Nottingham North 2:30 pm, 28th February 2006

What steps the Department has taken to encourage the judiciary to interact with other professionals and the public in order to improve mutual understanding.

Photo of Bridget Prentice Bridget Prentice Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs

It is for judges themselves to decide the extent and frequency of their engagement with the local community. However, the Department has taken many steps, in conjunction with the judiciary, to interact with the professions and the public, such as the local crime and disorder reduction partnerships of local authorities and local criminal justice boards, local family justice councils, a judges in schools guide, and developing a protocol for case management to deal with delays in care cases.

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Labour, Nottingham North

Would my hon. Friend the Minister congratulate the clerk to the magistrates in Nottingham, Mr. Graham Hooper, on convening a conference on Saturday about the community justice options that are now available, including the appointment of community judges? Will she go further and urge all similar colleagues to reach out, so that the criminal justice system can start to play a full part in the attack on antisocial behaviour and criminality, and in the regeneration of our communities? Health services, the police, the education services and many others are involved in that battle, so can we ensure that the criminal justice system also plays its full part?

Photo of Bridget Prentice Bridget Prentice Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs

I certainly support my hon. Friend in congratulating Graham Hooper and his team on the conference that will take place on Saturday. I also add my thanks to my hon. Friend for his part in organising that conference, and I am sure that it will be a great success. I know that he is the chairman of the local regeneration partnership in Nottingham, One Nottingham, whose vision statement of reducing inequality so that no one is disadvantaged is one that we can all endorse. I assure my hon. Friend that we will do all that we can to ensure that the judicial community participates in its local community and that the ideals that he and Mr. Hooper seek to encourage and develop on Saturday are taken further.

Photo of Mark Pritchard Mark Pritchard Conservative, The Wrekin

The Minister will be aware of the excellent work of the armed forces parliamentary scheme and the Industry and Parliament Trust. What consideration has been given to helping humble Back Benchers such as me to improve their knowledge of the judiciary, perhaps through day-release schemes—[Interruption.] Perhaps I should say early release schemes. Such a scheme would enable me to spend more time learning about the important role of the judiciary.

Photo of Bridget Prentice Bridget Prentice Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs

I missed the last half of the hon. Gentleman's question. I am sure that he is not suggesting that we should tag hon. Members so that we know where they are. As a fellow of the Industry and Parliament Trust, I recognise how important such schemes are in giving Members of Parliament an opportunity to understand what is happening in terms of other aspects of our country. To further his knowledge, he might like to sit in on his local court and see what happens there. He could also visit the partnerships in his local authority and discover what crime reduction schemes are in place. I recommend sitting in on his local magistrates court for a day as a good way of learning exactly what happens there.