Letter to Editor: Devolution of the justice system

Originally published in The Guardian

Phil Bowen


Devolution of the justice system should be seen as a positive step towards creating a court system which is fit for the 21st Century and fit for London (Mayor seeks control over London’s court system, 1 December). Our research, Better Courts, shows that when decisions about courts are made locally, not from Whitehall, they are more innovative, better coordinated and more effective at reducing crime.


London can learn from other leading world cities, like New York. There, through local accountability and coordination, judges, policy-makers and agencies have been able to concentrate efforts to tackle repeat offending. New York City has transformed itself from one of the most dangerous cities in the US to one of the safest.


The problems our courts face are specific to the areas they serve. What might make sense in London might not work in rural Norfolk or Cumbria. Judges are key to effective local courts and are better placed to manage them. Central control misses the point. Judges should lead local efforts to reduce crime and guarantee meaningful justice.

Phil Bowen
Director, Centre for Justice Innovation