Catch up on all the justice sector headlines you may have missed this month...
London Fire Brigade says Grenfell exposes construction industry skills crisis
London Fire Brigade has said that there will be an increase in serious building fires, unless the construction industry starts to take fire safety more seriously.
The responsibility for ensuring buildings are constructed with proper fire safety methods lies with the construction industry – the fire brigade does not have any legal power to approve a building’s design or check how it has been constructed.
However, when inspecting buildings fire safety experts have often spotted serious flaws, including critical fire safety systems like smoke ventilators, not being installed as per the original design and flawed compartmentation between flats, which can allow fire and smoke to spread.
The fire brigade is now calling for a legal loophole – which means some very technical fire safety elements can be designed without the involvement of a competent fire safety professional – to be closed. It also wants a robust independent on-site inspection program that ensures the fire safety elements of a building’s design are translated into the finished construction.
Police force sends ‘powerful’ open letter to women in abusive relationships
Officers on the Lochaber and Skye Police Force have been praised for using Twitter to reach out to women in abusive relationships.
The post was addressed to a “young woman in Skye” who the police have reason to believe is at risk of domestic abuse. It went on to list some places women can go to for support and ended with the message: “There is no excuse for domestic abuse. Help is out there.”
Marsha Scott, chief executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, said she thought the tweets were a “great, creative use of social media”. She told BBC Scotland that it is “fascinating and exciting” that the police are trying to reach out to people in different ways.
Charity suggests fresh sentencing guidelines on mental health are needed
Law reform charity Justice has suggested a number of changes to the UK justice system to make things fairer for defendants with learning disabilities and mental illnesses.
It has called for the introduction of special prosecutors to review all decisions to charge suspects with mental health vulnerabilities and has also suggested that mental health experts, not police officers, should identify people with mental health or learning disabilities.
Andrea Coomber, the director of Justice said: “The criminal justice system is not suitably designed to accommodate people with mental health or learning difficulties. There are still fundamental problems with the criminal justice system’s response to vulnerability and too few people receive reasonable adjustments to enable them to effectively participate in their defence.
“We are impressed by the efforts being made to create an integrated criminal justice and mental health sector. We hope that this report will build on that and bring about change for some of the country’s most vulnerable people.”
Armed Forces ‘will not receive extra funding’
The Ministry of Justice has been told that the Armed Forces is not set to receive any extra funding as a result of a major national security review.
New Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson had hoped for an extra £2 billion a year to prevent potentially devastating cuts.
The Telegraph reports that instead, increased funding will be dedicated to fighting cyber-attacks.
Mr Williamson has vowed to do everything possible to defend the Armed Forces’ budget.
New fire training facility proposed for Croydon
A new six-storey training facility to help crews tackle fires in tall buildings could soon open in Croydon.
The proposed training centre will include classrooms and simulation training spaces, as well as the Real Fire Training Venue (RFTV).
A spokeswoman for London Fire Brigade said: “The Brigade’s plans for the site are part of its objective to enhance the skills of its firefighters and provide realistic and modern training in south London.”
Police drone fights crime from the skies
Police in Greater Manchester have used a drone for the first time as part of an operation to crack down on crime on the public transport network in Rochdale.
The ‘eye in the sky’ was used as a deterrent only, but the trial was said to be a success, with officers impressed with the device’s ‘evidential quality’.
The drone was borrowed free-of-charge from a private company and operated by a qualified member of staff while a police officer observed.
Courts service to test virtual hearings
HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) is planning to test a ‘virtual hearings’ system which will allow defendants to appear before magistrates via video link.
The system will be tested by police in the south-east, who will provide a video link from police stations to magistrates’ courts, enabling the court to decide whether to grant bail or not without the defendant having to be transported to court.
Other reforms recently highlighted by the service’s chief executive Susan Acland-Hood include plans to digitise the process for dealing with a number of cases, including public transport fare evasion.