Court reform: new specialist problem-solving courts receive a boost

PRESS RELEASE: For Immediate release 18/5/2016


Plans to introduce new courts which help to cut crime took a step further tonight, as the government confirmed it intends to pilot new problem-solving courts soon.

At an event hosted by the Centre for Justice Innovation at the Royal Courts of Justice, government minister Caroline Dinenage echoed the Queen’s Speech commitment to courts reform.


Ms Dinenage said, ‘Over the coming months, together with the judiciary, we will be developing our plans for the first pilot courts in England and Wales. Criminal behaviour is often driven by underlying problems – alcohol and drug addiction, for example – that are not being properly addressed. These problem-solving courts, by looking at each offender as a person to be helped as well as punished, place their underlying problems at the heart of each case. Judicial supervision, with appropriate levers and sanctions, becomes the key to real change. It’s about turning someone’s life around and making the public safer.


In particular, the minister focused on developing specialist courts for women who experience high levels of mental health difficulties and abuse and whose children suffer lasting impact of imprisonment.


Judge Lippman, formerly the most senior judge of New York State’s courts, lent weight to the court plans. In a keynote speech he addressed the Lord Chief Justice, judges and magistrates.


A reforming judge, Lippman has been instrumental in establishing specialist courts for defendants with mental health, addiction, domestic violence and housing problems. New York now has more than 100 dedicated problem-solving courts. The role of senior and frontline judges in driving court innovation was highlighted by Lippman, also stressing the need for the courtroom judge to monitor defendants after sentencing.


Judge Lippman said of UK policy, ‘Problem-solving courts have offered us a vision of what a better, more humane and more effective system might look like. Now it is up to those who care about the administration of justice to think out of the box to make it happen – not to be soft on crime or tough on crime, but rather – to society’s great benefit – to be smart on crime.’


Following support from the Prime Minister and Lord Chancellor, a review of specialist courts has recently been completed. The Lord Chief Justice and the Lord Chancellor are considering its findings.


The Centre for Justice Innovation is the only justice reform charity with expertise in problem-solving courts. Director, Phil Bowen said, ‘We’re very pleased the government has committed to establishing courts which address the underlying problems to crimes. We know from research that a defendant in a problem-solving court is a third less likely to go on to commit more offences than those going through a traditional court. It’s a new way of seeing the role of courts in this country – as places offering a real opportunity to change people’s behaviour and lives for the better. If done right, the tough-love, practical approach will slot into and strengthen our courts system – cutting crime and improving public safety.’


Note to Editors:


The Centre for Justice Innovation is a UK justice research and development charity. We’re committed to building a justice system that holds people accountable, that is fair and feels fair, and which seeks to address the problems of those people who come into contact with it. We support frontline practitioners to shape evidence-led responses to address the needs of their local communities. At a national level, we highlight promising new research and practice, working with policy makers to overcome barriers to change experienced by practitioners. Striving to learn lessons from around globe, we have strong links to research and practice in the USA through our unique relationship with the Center for Court Innovation.


For more information: Arsheen Qasim, Centre for Justice Innovatioon: 07918 831964 or


Philippa Budgen – 07801 150 192 or