Should Wales Be Responsible for Having Its Own Legal Jurisdiction? THURSDAY ESSAy an Assembly Committeeyesterday Reported on the Issues That Would Arise If Wales Had a Legal Jurisdiction Separate from That of England. Committee Chairman David Melding Explains the Thinking Behind the Inquiry and Outlines Its Main Findings

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FOLLOWING the yes vote in the referendum on extending the National Assembly for Wales' law-making powers in May 2011, we as the Assembly have yet to fully flex our new legislative muscles.

The Local Government Byelaws Act and the Official Languages Act, while worthy and necessary, haven't captured the public imagination in the way future legislation may seek to.

The Human Transplantation Bill which is currently making its way through the Assembly's legislative process is already engaging people in a completely different way.

This, after all, is the Bill that would change the system of organ donation in Wales from the current one in which people opt-in to donating their organs, to one which would require people to opt-out if they didn't want to donate.

An emotive subject such as this will bring into sharp relief that we in Wales have the power to choose our legislative direction.

It will be a demonstration of how, increasingly, there are differences between the legal landscapes of England and Wales.

No wonder then that the Welsh Government is looking at the question of a Welsh jurisdiction.

It was time for the National Assembly to do so, too.

The guiding principle behind any consideration of a separate jurisdiction should be to bring greater access to justice for Welsh citizens.

It is fundamentally important that any future changes are not just seen as a matter of convenience to the legal profession, but benefit the people of Wales directly.

My committee colleagues and I believe that a separate legal jurisdiction in Wales is constitutionally viable.

But any decision taken on this is a political one.

It should be made with the best interests of Wales and its people at its heart and it should only be taken after thorough consultation with, and the support of, those people.

A potential driver for this decision could be any future proposals for the National Assembly to take on powers over the administration of justice in Wales - police, court system, probation, etc. …