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Campaigners Say The Government Removing The Justice Secretary Shows It Doesn't Care About Justice

David Lidington has left the Ministry of Justice after seven months. When his replacement is confirmed, they will be the sixth in less than eight years.

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The prime minister's decision to move David Lidington from his role as justice secretary after just seven months has been strongly criticised by criminal justice campaigners who say it shows the government doesn't value the Ministry of Justice or its work.

Lidington was handed a new role as Cabinet Office minister in a government reshuffle on Monday, meaning that whoever becomes the new justice secretary will be the sixth person to hold the job in just under eight years.

Lidington succeeded Liz Truss, who held the job for just 11 months; before her, Michael Gove was in charge for 14 months.

The longest-serving justice secretary since 2010 was Chris Grayling, who survived two years and eight months before Gove's appointment. Gove promptly set about reversing many of his predecessor's policies.

Tania Bassett, national official for the National Association of Probation Officers, told BuzzFeed News: "It seems the revolving door issue isn’t just a problem for prisoners but one for the whole of the MoJ.

"The justice system is in crisis and we have had no consistency in the MoJ for the eight years when we desperately need reform. I do hope the next justice secretary has a legal background and along with everything else they will face, will uphold the rule of law."

Frances Crook, CEO of the Howard League for Penal Reform, tweeted after Lidington's job change that the announcement of more political party roles ahead of the justice brief on Monday meant the department had slid down the prime minister's list of priorities.

I'm not sure this is a promotion for David Lidington. Justice is a spending dept and politically sensitive. He has… https://t.co/T7QpKdZf3H

Keeping its citizens safe & protecting & promoting the rule of law is, arguably, the most important role of governm… https://t.co/Ax3DZt3Fmn

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Quite shameful that priority is given to appointing & announcing political party posts instead of government offices of state.

That view was shared by several leading barristers, including Adam Wagner, a human rights specialist at 1 Crown Office Row, who added that the justice system was in as much of a crisis as the NHS.

Justice budget has also been savagely cut; huge reductions in funding for prisons (= more violence/deaths), Legal A… https://t.co/sbRhMVFNJ7

How can a Justice Minister possibly achieve anything if he's moved after 6 months. Ridiculous. https://t.co/GY1fuoZ42o

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If this is so, it demonstrates Theresa May’s utter contempt for the justice system. An inconvenient appendage of go… https://t.co/JDIV6M63tF

Angela Rafferty QC, chair of the Criminal Bar Association, said: "The Criminal Bar Association looks forward to working closely with the new Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice. Stability and investment is needed at a time when public confidence in the criminal justice system has been eroded.

"Risks of miscarriages of justice have been highlighted. Successive governments have made counterproductive and unjustified cuts to funding. With the fifth change of secretary of state for justice in under five years the public will rightly require reassurance that justice is given priority. This is critical for stable civil society and the Rule of Law."

Lord Falconer, a former justice secretary under the last Labour government, said that by law the prime minister could only appoint someone to the role who would uphold the rule of law and rise above party differences.

S.2 of Constitutional Reform Act provides PM can only appoint someone as LC she thinks is qualified to do job, cruc… https://t.co/59UKpe22wu

Meanwhile, Labour's shadow justice secretary said the turnover at the department showed the "disdain with which the Tories are treating our justice system."

The Tories are now on their 4th Justice Secretary in just 18 months. This revolving door approach shows the absolut… https://t.co/QwRRFAgaU8


Labour MP Wes Streeting said that what was needed what new leadership but new policies.

Prisons a disaster, probation service a mess and access to justice is restricted to the wealthy. We need a new just… https://t.co/FwqWWzLp43


Patrick Smith is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Patrick Smith at patrick.smith@buzzfeed.com.

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