The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is to restructure just seven months after its creation, the Justice Secretary Jack Straw announced today (29 January).
The key change to the structure, which will come into place on 1 April, will bring together the prison service and the probation service under the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) to streamline headquarters and regional structures.
The restructuring, however, has caused concerns in corners of the legal market, with civil rights group Justice worried about the declining importance of legal aid in the re-organisation of the MoJ.
Justice director Roger Smith said: “Legal aid is now contained within one directorate embracing courts, tribunals and regulation of the legal profession. There is a real danger that the misguided inclusion of prisons and probation within the Ministry’s remit is swamping a concern with access to justice.”
Straw, however, said: “The new structure will provide the Ministry of Justice with a sharper focus on its key priorities, including public protection and reducing re-offending, and improving relations with the judiciary, while streamlining leadership across the whole of the Department’s agenda.”
Last May, the MoJ was created to bring the responsibilities of the now defunct Department for Constitutional Affairs with NOMS from the Home Office and the trilateral Office for Criminal Justice Reform.
Shortly after the MoJ’s formation a review into its structure was launched to ensure that it is focused on its key operational and policy aims, including prisons and probation, said the department.