Fresh call for new problem-solving courts to be trialled amid concerns of lost momentum

PRESS RELEASE: Embargoed until 00.01 12th October 2016


Pressure is growing for specialist problem-solving courts to be piloted as independent justice reform charity, the Centre for Justice Innovation, today launches a new report. The report, ‘Delivering problem-solving courts’ calls for ten new pilot projects in England and Wales. It also stresses the need for support of existing development projects already underway in the adult and youth justice system.


The paper is in response to the recent apparent slowing momentum for problem-solving court reform. Despite the most senior family judge, Sir James Munby, last month saying there must be ‘no rowing back’ from plans to introduce more problem-solving courts, there has been a lack of detailed plans for expected specialist court pilots announced by the Government in May.


Problem-solving courts put judges at the centre of rehabilitation to tackle the root causes of crime and social harm. The evidence shows that they have been proven to work, cutting crime and demonstrating cost-efficiencies.  Several problem-solving courts already exist. Best known are the twelve Family Drug and Alcohol Courts in our family justice system. Less widely known are those in the criminal courts. St Albans Crown Court runs a high intensity problem-solving community court for prolific drug addicted acquisitive offenders. Sefton’s complex cases court specifically deals with offenders with mental illness and other vulnerabilities.


Phil Bowen, Director of the Centre for Justice Innovation said:


There is a real opportunity to enable our criminal courts to contribute to cutting crime. The evidence for problem-solving courts is compelling – they work and are deliverable when set up in the right areas, with the right local judges and well-resourced treatment and rehabilitation services. It is essential they have proper support from government and the senior judiciary. With our courts under unprecedented strain, problem-solving courts aren’t a silver bullet but they offer a window of opportunity to cut crime, turn lives around and keep communities safer.”


Retired Crown Court Judge Michael Findlay Baker CBE, QC, founder of the St Albans Crown Court project, called Choices and Consequences, said:


Problem-solving court projects like Choices and Consequences provide a rehabilitative programme as an alternative to custody.  Choices and Consequences offers such a programme to prolific acquisitive addicted offenders who badly want to change their way of life and who are prepared to admit all their offending  – often measured in hundreds of burglaries.

The benefits of these programmes and the lessons to be learned from them should be more widely shared – particularly with those seeking to set up new problem-solving courts.”


Key recommendations for delivery of the government commitment include:


  • The Ministry of Justice and senior judiciary to communicate their clear ambition for the spread of problem-solving courts across criminal, youth and family courts during the current Parliament;
  • To develop new problem-solving court projects where the local initiative and enthusiasm from both the judiciary and probation, social and rehabilitation services is most prominent
  • To explore how changing court technology can be used to enhance the problem-solving court, for instance, virtual progress meetings
  • To empower judges in new problem-solving courts with strengthened powers to regularly hold offenders accountable in court when they are on community orders. And to include in the forthcoming Prisons and Courts Bill the introduction of short custodial sanctions for people on community orders for drug and alcohol courts in the Crown Court
  • To support these initiatives with costed and expert assistance



Notes to editors:

The Centre for Justice Innovation is a UK justice research and development charity.  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 practitioners to shape evidence-led responses in 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.



For more information:


Arsheen Qasim, Centre for Justice Innovatioon: 07918 831964 or


Philippa Budgen – 07801 150 192 or