The Welsh Criminal Justice System

On the Jagged Edge

Author(s) Robert Jones,Richard Wyn Jones

Language: English

Genre(s): Social Policy and Law

  • October 2022 · 264 pages ·216x138mm

  • · Paperback - 9781786839435
  • · eBook - pdf - 9781786839442
  • · eBook - epub - 9781786839459

About The Book

The Welsh criminal justice system is unique. While the country has its own devolved government and parliament, there is no Welsh equivalent of the Scottish or Northern Irish justice systems. Rather, the writ of England and Wales criminal justice institutions continues to run. Yet the extensive responsibilities of Wales’s devolved institutions ensure that they necessarily play a significant role in criminal justice. As a result, the Welsh criminal justice system operates across a ‘jagged edge’ of devolved and reserved powers and responsibilities.

This book provides the first academic account of this system. It demonstrates not only that Wales has some of the worst criminal justice outcomes in western Europe, but that even if the will existed to try to address these problems, the current constitutional underpinnings of the Welsh criminal justice system would make it nigh-on impossible. Based on official data and in-depth interviews, this is an urgent and challenging book, required reading for anyone interested in Welsh politics and society.


‘This book is a powerful and eminently readable analysis of the Welsh criminal justice system. It examines the basic issues of costs, the ability to deliver joined-up policy, labyrinthine complexity, accountability and outcomes. With its in-depth research, it shows why the system is failing Wales, and reinforces the compelling need for fundamental change.’
Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales

‘This book is both an indictment and a call to action. It is impossible to read without being convinced by the data that the underperfoming Welsh criminal justice system is dysfunctional, poorly-scrutinised and inhumane, trapped in a constitutional limbo of conflicting powers and responsibilities between Westminster and Cardiff. Devolution of justice is overdue: here is the critical evidence.’
Liz Saville Roberts, MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd

‘This book is key reading for anyone seriously interested in the condition of Wales and where the country should or might be heading. Concerned with the human face of state power in a strange constitutional situation, the authors show how the wider Welsh criminal justice system is distinct even as part of an ostensibly single England and Wales arrangement. Via principled argument and empirical evidence of poor outcomes, they investigate problems of waste, policy fragmentation and lack of accountability previously identified by the landmark Commission on Justice in Wales. The book powerfully portrays progressive politics without the justice function as like Hamlet without the Prince.’
Richard Rawlings, Professor of Public Law, University College London

‘The experiences and needs of Welsh communities have been long neglected in the corridors of Whitehall. The Welsh Criminal Justice System: On the Jagged Edge provides a vital corrective, exploring criminal justice in Wales in fine detail, and setting out a clear path to creating the kind of society Wales deserves. Anyone who has a stake in twenty-first-century Wales must read this book.’
Ellie Mae O’Hagan, Director of the Centre for Labour and Social Studies

'This accessible book fills a significant gap in the literature and provides an important contribution to Welsh criminal justice policy understanding and a call to action for academics to engage with this agenda. It adds a new dimension to a growing literature on public policy in Wales post-devolution, especially that which reflects on the consistency (or otherwise) of emphasis on social justice. The Welsh criminal justice system: On the jagged edge will be of interest to scholars of criminal and social justice, devolution, and Wales—as the authors put it “anyone interested in the future of the country".’
Dr Ella Rabaiotti, International Criminal Justice Review

'Although full devolution of justice powers is not likely to occur in the near future, this important book is a vital contribution to a conversation about devolution that needs to be taking place now. It should be read, and taken seriously, by policy-makers who want to make criminal justice work for all of Wales.'
Dr Bharat Malkani, the welsh agenda

'The book combines some painful original research data about how things have been working in Wales (or not) with trenchant analysis and a characteristically robust challenge to the assumptions of opponents, and indeed some proponents, of change … Most of that data only came to light as a result of the strenuous and untiring efforts of the authors, and in particular Dr. Rob Jones, in prising out of UK Government and other official bodies Wales-specific information which had previously featured only as part of England and Wales aggregated data. The graphs, tables and commentary in the second chapter of this book set things out clearly and starkly. Those wishing to be well-informed about criminal justice in Wales should study them.'
Professor Emyr Lewis, Nation.Cymru

‘There is a wealth of empirical, qualitative and quantitative data, with chapters examining outcomes of the criminal justice system, the relationship between the Welsh government and power, policy-making, scrutiny and accountability, and the future of Welsh justice – spanning youth justice, incarceration and case studies. In contrast to much other work on this subject, the book is extremely readable and well presented, with tables, graphs, maps, and a through sixty-eight-page bibliography … This volume is indispensable, and Wales is a much richer place for the analysis carried out by the authors on the criminal justice system and how it relates to our communities.’
Yasmin Begum, Planet: The Welsh Internationalist

The Welsh criminal justice system: On the jagged edge is a compelling read, groundbreaking in its exposition of the unique formations of the Welsh criminal justice system (WCJS) … this book should be considered foundational for students and scholars of Welsh criminal justice. In addition, it provides a thought-provoking text for criminologists interested in the distinctions between criminal justice systems. Particularly those criminologists researching criminal justice in the UK who may have, until now, had little understanding of the complex and interesting case of Welsh criminal justice ‘on the jagged edge’.’
Cara L.C. Hunter, The Howard Journal of Crime and Justice


List of Figures
List of Tables
List of Maps
Chapter 1 Introduction: A Welsh criminal justice system?
Chapter 2 Outcomes in the Welsh criminal justice system
Chapter 3 Whitehall and the Welsh criminal justice system: What power reveals
Chapter 4 The Welsh Government and criminal justice: Responsibility without power
Chapter 5 On policy making and policy taking: Two case studies
Chapter 6 Scrutiny and accountability across the jagged edge
Chapter 7 The future of the Welsh criminal justice system

About the Author(s)

Author(s): Robert Jones

Robert Jones is Lecturer in the Welsh Criminal Justice System in the School of Law and Politics at Cardiff University, and a member of the Wales Governance Centre.

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Author(s): Richard Wyn Jones

Richard Wyn Jones is Professor of Welsh Politics and Director of the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University.

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