Call for Responsibility for Criminal Justice to Be Devolved toWales; 'MOVE LOGICALIF AMS GIVEN FULL LAW-MAKING POWERS'

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Byline: DAVID WILLIAMSON

THE National Assembly's first Counsel General has called for responsibility for justice to be devolved to Wales if a referendum on full law-making powers is won next year.

Winston Roddick, a leading barrister who stepped down from his position as the Assembly's chief legal adviser in 2003, argues that the time has come for the institution to gain responsibility for major areas of the criminal justice system.

Writing in the Bevan Foundation Review, he says that if the Welsh people vote for an Assembly with new freedoms to make laws in devolved areas then responsibility for justice should also be transferred.

He said: "Devolving justice to an Assembly or Parliament enjoying legislative competence makes good constitutional sense. It would be logical, consistent and coherent.

"Is there an Assembly or Parliament enjoying full legislative competence which does not also have responsibility for the administration of justice within its territorial jurisdiction?" Describing the consequences of not devolving justice, he said: "[Full] legislative competence without responsibility for justice would be a piecemeal reform, would perpetuate the asymmetrical nature of devolution in the UK and would be demeaning to Wales."

He envisages the devolution of responsibility for the High Court, the criminal and civil divisions of the Court of Appeal, the prosecution service, all tribunals, the Magistrates Courts Service, the prison service, the Civil Service and the police service. Such a move, he said, would reflect the realities of a Britain in which radical constitutional changes have already taken place.

Mr Roddick is convinced that further change is still possible, more than a decade after Tony Blair's Labour Government introduced the devolution reforms.

He said: "The momentum for fundamental reforms is a continuing one. The coalition Government's proposed reforms include the introduction of fixed term parliaments, reforming the voting system and further changes to the House of Lords."

Hecontinued: "In this period in our history, it would appear that our constitution is in a near fluid state. …