The Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke has said that prison is a ‘waste of money’. The current rate of sentencing is unsustainable and Mr. Clarke argues that not enough is being done to reduce high re-offending by tackling the root causes of crime. He is preparing to publish a bill next month which will include proposals to allow for large sentence discounts in return for early guilty pleas and diverting the mentally ill away from jail. The goal is a 3,000 cut in the record 85,000 jail population in England and Wales in four years.

The criminal bar is facing increasing pressures, and it is predicted that ‘the days of the high rolling criminal barrister are over’. Solicitor advocated now take on more of the work previously done by barristers at the start of their careers. Trainees at the bar can get paid just £10,000 annually; a sum that can take years to rise. News that pressure to cut costs may lead the Crown Prosecution Service to instruct a single prosecuting counsel for murder trials shows that work for junior counsel will become even more scarce.

Domestic violence was in the spotlight last week. In a speech last Thursday the director of public prosecutions, Keir Staremer, warned against complacency, ‘Domestic violence is serious and pernicious. It ruins lives, breaks up families and has a lasting impact. It is criminal. And it has been with us for a very long time. Yet it is only in the last ten years that it has been taken seriously as a criminal justice issue’. Starmer’s sentiments echoed those of Teresa May when she launched the government’s action plan to end violence against women and girls on the 100th anniversary of international women’s day. However, despite the speech of Starmer and May the Ministry of Justice is still planning to cut legal aid in domestic violence cases.

The government has lost its final appeal against giving prisoners the right to vote following a ruling by the European court of human rights. A five-judge panel said the UK must now draw up proposals within six months to end the blanket ban on prisoners voting. The court delivered the ultimatum after upholding its decision last November to award two UK prisoners €5,000 (£4,350) in costs and expenses for their loss of voting rights, which was ruled a breach of their human rights.

The latest annual statistical report from The Law Society has confirmed the extent to which law firms have so far failed to react to the increase in women in the profession, with the number of female solicitors nearly doubling over the last 10 years. However, despite the increasing numbers of women entering the profession, the rise is not reflected in partner promotions. In total, the statistics show there were 8,002 female partners last year – equating to 6.8% of solicitors on the roll, or 21% of the number of women solicitors working in private practice. In contrast, there were 23,458 male partners at 31 July 2010 – equating to just under half of all male solicitors working in private practice and holding a practising certificat

Thousands of people found by the high court to have been illegally detained for hours by police at a central London protest may sue Scotland Yard for false imprisonment. The high court has ruled that the Metropolitan police had broken the law in the way it kettled up to 5,000 demonstrators at the G20 protests in April 2009. Judges found that the force used by police was “unjustified”, criticised “imprecise” instructions given by senior officers about releasing innocent people, and said the mass detentions for five hours were an unlawful deprivation of liberty under article 5 of the European convention on human rights.

Another high profile case is soon to come to the High Court as it is set to hear the first of four legal challenges to magistrates’ courts closures. A challenge to the closure of Sittingbourne Magistrates’ Court has been listed in May, and the High Court in Wales will list a hearing for June on the planned closure in Barry. Judicial review proceedings have been issued in relation to the planned closures of Sedgemoor and Cardigan Magistrates’ Courts.