Wales will not have a separate legal jurisdiction for at least a decade, the country’s first minister confirmed today.
Carwyn Jones (pictured) said the estimated £1.2bn cost of devolving the entire criminal justice system would put too much pressure on the Welsh budget.
In its response to the 12-week consultation held last year, the Welsh government said ‘no purpose’ would be usefully served in seeking immediate responsibility for the whole of administration of justice.
But provision for a future separate jurisdiction will be included in legislation so that the issue can be revisited in the future.
Jones said the Welsh government still had long-term ambitions to extend devolved common law powers in the model of Northern Ireland and address the ‘odd scenario’ of laws created in Wales but being subject to the law of England and Wales.
Speaking to the Gazette, Jones denied the decision to put off a separate legal jurisdiction was a climbdown and said the government had always been open-minded about the future of Welsh law.
‘We never came out in favour – we said there needed to be a discussion about it,’ he said. ‘We have this odd situation where England and Wales is the only jurisdiction with no legislature, which is uncomfortable for lawyers. But without further devolution there is no need for a separate jurisdiction.’
While ‘all matters would need to be considered carefully, there is a substantial cost that is not appropriate at this stage’.
The Welsh government said the ‘foundations’ for a separate jurisdiction could be made now, including the appointment of a Welsh member of the Supreme Court and new Welsh offices for the Court of Appeal and High Court.
There should also be the acceptance of the principle that the legal business in Wales should be administered and dealt with in Wales wherever possible.
But the Welsh government will press Westminster for the immediate devolution of responsibilities for the police service, together with equivalent responsibilities for community safety and crime prevention.
These recommendations will form the government’s submission to the Silk Commission, which will form the basis for the country’s future devolved powers, subject to approval from the UK government in Westminster.