On 9 May this year the Ministry of Justice was created. This major restructuring of the Home Office and replacement of the Department for Constitutional Affairs has, for the first time, seen responsibilities for the judiciary, legal aid and the prison and probation service brought together as one department. The Lord Chancellor and the new Secretary of State for Justice, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, states in a government press release that " By bringing together courts, prisons and probation services we will have a coherent system looking at the whole life of an offender from conviction to punishment to rehabilitation."
However, critics say that the radical changes were carried out too quickly, with just six weeks from initial announcement to implementation giving little time for consultation. In addition, there has been no Parliamentary debate on the new department.
Further criticisms have been levelled at the new Ministry in relation to the independence of the judiciary. Commentators say that budget cuts in one area of the Ministry's authority may have to be made to provide extra funding in others. As the need to build more prisons is pressing, with the prison population at an all-time high, this could eat into the budget that is necessary for the proper running of the court service. Ultimately, some critics are worried that pressure could be put on judges to impose shorter jail sentences to keep costs down. They argue that the judiciary needs to be independently funded in order to function independently and effectively.