Sadly, I fear you may be optimistic, Joshua. I suspect there are a few centrist people in both parties with an understanding of the criminal justice system who would welcome a Royal Commission. However, far more see the criminal justice system as red meat within a heated political environment and don't want to be seen as 'looking soft'.

Royal Commissions are politically double-edged swords. They can provide cover when they recommend something that is politically sensitive, but in the era of "enemies of the people" type headlines (and the current tendency to attack Starmer for who he represented in the past), I am no longer sure that's true. That's where the other edge comes in. Assuming a new government is returned, they will have enough stuff to do for the first year. So, a Royal Commission may be set up in the second year. It will probably hear evidence for a year and spend another year reading evidence and writing the report. So, it will probably report in year 4, and there will be a debate. If the government has time to legislate then it may introduce it then, but it's more likely that it will need to think about it. That means introducing legislation towards the end of the fourth year when everyone is gearing up for the next election, potentially attracting "soft on crime" headlines.

I fear that the CJS is going to stagger along, almost mortally wounded, for some years yet. Partly that is also because both parties are committed to ring-fencing so many departments that the MoJ's budget will need to be cut, and a lot of that will be tied up in moving prisoners all around the country due to overcrowding that they need to put right, but probably won't.

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I'm an incurable optimist. But experience tells me you may well be right.

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I am to put it mildly ambivalent about another Royal Commission. I had much involvement for the Law Society in its participation in and responses to the Narey Review, the Auld Review and indeed the Halliday Review on Sentencing. With all three the impression from the first was that , whichever complexion of government, in its thinking the desired conclusions had already been pencilled in. With every appropriate respect to Sir Martin, Michael Howard had wanted those wished for recommendations in time for exploiting with an election pending but Martin in a number of respects proved to be very much his own man (with apologies for that gender exclusive turn of phrase). Lord Justice Auld- we found- was a most approachable and encouraging of reviewers who for example with his then senior civil service shadow attended a meeting of the Criminal Law Committee which I then chaired. We were also invited to and on the whole it was myself who attended any number of his review forums. He very much favoured unification of the system but the then Blairite administration appeared less than keen when confronted with its resource implications. Very much a starting assumption had been that the right to jury trial in either way cases was a goner and of course with so many other campaigning entities the Society was dead set against that. What is more overall we -so to speak- more or less “won” on that. It would require a lot of research before I would be able to recite the litany of meetings attended, papers written and indeed Select Committees attended by me and/or others. Eventually, Lord Auld had gone into a prolonged interval of purdah after a number 10 official, in the hope of some juicy morsels for the then impending general election, had sounded him out for a peek at some of his likely conclusions “off the record”. He had- rightly- declined to play that game, whereupon some of his hoped for potential “vote winners” were speculatively aired; hence purdah. The Halliday Review’s imaginative thinking came to very little since for example intermittent custody would even then have been beyond the logistical imagination, instincts or resources of in particular the prison service. I have to add that, whilst we had been consulted also about that ,through no fault of Mr. Halliday or indeed those tasked with that review ,consultation had, as I recall, for reasons to do with- you’ve guessed it- an electoral cycle been rushed and- I shall say it- rather perfunctory. Again resource implications led to…….. To be honest I think I have now talked myself out of ANOTHER review. Recommendations- SOME of them sound- carpet the floors of both the Home Office and the MOJ, whilst some (supposedly) new ideas keep emerging. At least they have DIFFERENT names and so it is- disturbingly- in danger of proving to be the case with (supposedly) NON New Labour this time round. I am far from alone, once the dust has settled after the fourth of next month, in planning to give my new M.P. earache about all this - and Shadow Justice Secretary Shabana Mahmood is Labour’s candidate in our neighbouring constituency of Ladywood. Just saying!

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