Privatising Justice

A report commissioned by the Justice Forum demands an immediate end to all Private Finance Initiative and Public Private Partnerships projects and a substantial increase in public sector capital investment in the Criminal Justice System. The report was written and researched by the Centre for Public Services (CPS) and concludes that the U.K. already has the most privatised Criminal Justice System in Europe. The Justice Forum which comprises all major unions in the justice system believes that privatisation is a bar to joined-up and effective justice because of the inflexibility of contracts, the length and complexity of the procurement process and the poor performance of information technology. In addition PFI is at least twice as expensive as public sector investment and it results in poorer service delivery. The Labour Government has systematically driven PFI projects within the Criminal Justice System since 1997.

The report concludes that claimed successes for PFI projects are largely an illusion. The cost of three court IT systems rose by 79% above the fixed control price; the transfer of risk is not financial as claimed but on service delivery, but there is little evidence of monitoring of discrimination issues within contracts, there is a lack of evidence of cost savings, a failure to justify best value in planning and procurement and financial information is systematically withheld from the public on “commercial in confidence” grounds. The claim of additional innovation through PFI is also found to be unsubstantiated.

The research finds that nearly all private contractors employ new staff on lower rates of pay, with fewer holidays and limited sick pay entitlement. Staff in private jails are paid 25% less on average than their state counterparts. In addition, consultation with trade unions in planning and procurement has been negligible and dominated by secrecy.