The LibDems have always supported human rights and open justice. Its a pity that they have allowed the dismantling of probation, the deterioration of prison regimes and the introduction of new laws like mandatory imprisonment for threatening with a knife. But their own policies have usually been sensible and their new policy document is excellent. LibDem policy making is pretty democratic, this document having been put together by a group of active members who answered an open invitation to take part.
It is a very wide ranging document with many ideas. One of the key ones is huge support for restorative justice and extending its availability, which would be a good idea. But it also deals with the over use of imprisonment, particularly of women and children. Bravely it suggests that courts should be required to adopt a presumption against prison sentences under 6 months, given evidence that they don’t work. Even more bravely it suggests that judges should take some responsibility for the outcomes of their own decisions and those of colleagues. “Liberal Democrats would develop robust analysis as to levels of re-offending, the type of sentence passed, the nature of the support offered and the court centre that passed the relevant sentence. Through the use of such “destination data”, it will then be possible to see which courts are most effective at reducing crime. That data would be published, court centre by court centre, and resident judges would be responsible and accountable for the performance at their court”. This is truly radical stuff. At the moment, judges are only accountable for the legality of sentence they give. Most of the time they have no idea of the average outcomes for a particular kind of sentence, let alone what happens in individual cases. I think its a good idea, but not all at sure most judges and magistrates would agree.