On 10 March 2015 the Criminal Justice Alliance held a conference in Fitzwilliam College Cambridge entitled An Agenda for a New Government. It offered the opportunity to review what is effective and to recommend potential solutions for the new government to consider in order to achieve a fairer and more effective criminal justice system. This one day conference focused on developing ideas and messages for the new government looking in particular at desistance approaches, problem solving courts and justice reinvestment.


Speakers included:


Dr Tapio Lappi-Seppälä, Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy, University of Helsinki (Download presentation)

  • Define high incarceration rates as a problem on political level.
  • Strive towards long term coherent policy covering sanction structures, sentencing rules and enforcement practices.
  • Involve, inform and work with actors from all relevant fields including politicians, civil servants, judiciary, enforcement, NGOs, research and the media.

Nick Hardwick CBE, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

Professor Sir Anthony Bottoms, University of Cambridge (Download presentation)

Professor Lawrence Sherman, University of Cambridge

  • Accelerate evidence-based decisions
  • Accelerate professionalization
  • Make prevention paramount

Nicola Padfield, University of Cambridge (Download presentation)

Sir Alan Beith MP, Chair of the Justice Committee (Download presentation)

Yvonne Thomas, Interserve Justice, MD and Chair, Purple Futures LLP (Download presentation)

Penelope Gibbs, Director, Transform Justice

  • Design policies on the basis that nearly all the solutions to reducing crime lie outside the criminal justice sector.
  • Reduce prison numbers through delegating the budget for custody.
  • Abandon the “arms race” – the toxic debate whereby each side competes to be tougher on crime and those who commit it.


The delegates also heard a panel discussion on problem solving courts. Panelists included:

Phil Bowen, Director, Centre for Justice Innovation

Nick Crichton, Family Drug and Alcohol Court

  • Do not just process people. Treat them with courtesy and respect, and use the authority of the court to bring about change.

Richard Monkhouse, Chairman, Magistrates Association

  • Implement Section 154 of the CJA 2003 to increase jurisdictional powers of magistrates.
  • Implement Section 151 of the CJA 2003 allowing sentencers to impose community based orders for prolific offenders for offences that do not cross the community sentence threshold.
  • Develop the use of engagement in the courtroom to signpost offenders to address causes of offending behaviour.

Rebecca Connolly, Stockport Housing Offender Service

  • Increase in problem solving court provision to reduce number of short sentences and ‘revolving door’ to prisons.
  • We need to invest to save – funding innovative support roles in the community is essential to provide assertive outreach services.
  • Consider the impact of welfare reform.


There were also 5 workshops on a variety of topics:


Workshop 1: Desistance: encouraging practical policy  

Stephen Moffatt, Criminal Justice Alliance

Chris Stacey, Unlock


Workshop 2: Justice Reinvestment – bridging the gap between aspiration and implementation   

Kevin Wong, Hallam Centre for Community Justice (HCCJ), Sheffield Hallam

  • Resist the allure of ‘radical reform’ by making structural changes to the CJS.
  • Deliver improvements by focusing on ‘marginal gains’.
  • Incentivise local agencies to deliver more integrated services through place based budgets.


Workshop 3: Restorative justice: From the margins to the mainstream?

Jon Collins, Restorative Justice Council

  • Embed restorative justice throughout the criminal justice system, giving all victims of crime the right to access restorative justice.
  • Ensure universal provision of high quality restorative justice by funding a restorative justice service in every area.
  • Establish the use of restorative practice within every institution in the custodial estate as an effective way to resolve disputes and respond to conflict.

Ian Marder, University of Leeds

  • Adopt an evidence-led approach to the development of criminal justice policy.
  • Learn from innovations in other countries, particularly drug policy in Portugal and new Family Group Conferencing legislation in the Netherlands.
  • Ensure that our responses to crime and conflict respect human dignity

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Workshop 4: Redesigning the gateway to the Criminal Justice System?

Peter Neyroud, Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge

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Workshop 5: The resettlement of girls and young women

Sarah Wilkinson, Nacro

Sue Ryan, Pecan

Sara Hyde, Pecan

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Download the handout


Many thanks to the Hadley Trust for generously funding the conference.