A Commission on Justice in Wales is to be established that will be chaired by the outgoing lord chief justice, first minister of Wales Carwyn Jones announced today.
The new body will review the justice system and policing in Wales, and ’consider how the system can achieve better outcomes’.
The development comes as devolved Wales develops a growing body of distinct Welsh law, which has so far effected major changes in areas ranging from social services to residential property. A replacement for stamp duty land tax, introduced by the Welsh government last September and hailed as the first Welsh tax in 800 years, is one headline example.
Jones said the commission will deal with ’unfinished business’ from the cross-party Commission on Devolution in Wales - known as The Silk Commission. The commission, established in 2011 to look at the future of the devolution settlement in Wales, produced a string of recommendations in respect of justice covering the courts, probation, prisons and youth justice. The new justice commission will also address crucial issues ’relating to the legal jurisdiction and the challenges facing the legal services sector in Wales’.
Whether devolution in Wales should be accompanied by the establishment of a wholly separate jurisdiction remains a subject of fierce debate in the country, including among lawyers.
Jones said: ’In Wales, we have had a separate legislature for six years but, as yet, we do not have our own jurisdiction. By establishing the Commission on Justice in Wales, we are taking an important first step towards developing a distinctive justice system which is truly representative of Welsh needs.
’The commission will consider how we can do things differently in Wales and identify options to develop a distinct Welsh justice system, which improves people’s access to justice, reduces crime and promotes rehabilitation.’
He added: ’I am delighted that Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd will chair the commission when he steps down as lord chief justice in October. Having risen to the heights of the judiciary in Wales and England, Lord Thomas commands universal respect and brings his unprecedented wealth of experience to this important role.’
Lord Thomas said: 'I am very pleased to take on this challenge. As a small developing jurisdiction, Wales offers unique opportunities to identify new solutions to the complex challenges facing justice and the legal profession. These are crucial to Wales’ future prosperity and I hope the commission will make a valuable contribution to addressing them.’
A Law Society spokesperson said: 'We look forward to engaging with the Commission on Justice in Wales as it considers options to develop a distinct Welsh Justice system and a legal services sector at the forefront of digital and artificial intelligence changes.'