Who handles justice & legal services in the UK?
George Washington, the first President of the United States, once said: “The administration of justice is the firmest pillar of government.”
Now, I know he said that a few hundred years ago and he lived across the other side of ‘the Pond’, but old Georgey boy makes an excellent point. The justice system in the UK is incredibly important to the safety and security of society and therefore it’s a major priority for the government.
The UK government’s dedication to maintaining an effective justice system is vital for keeping the public safe and making sure we live in a fair society.
The criminal justice system is all about reducing crime by diminishing the amount of offenders on the streets and making every effort to reform convicted criminals to stop them from reoffending.
The civil justice system, on the other hand, is all about making society as fair as it possibly can be by settling disputes between individual members of the public, clashes between different companies and disagreements between businesses and consumers.
Everything which relates to the UK’s justice system is the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and its wealth of executive agencies. These public sector organisations oversee all the policies, the institutions and the people that strive to make the UK a safe and just place, from the police and probation officers, to the judges and the prison guards. Essentially, the department focuses on making the justice system as effective and efficient as possible.
The Ministry of Justice is supported by a range of specialist agencies and organisations, including:
- Youth Justice Board for England and Wales
- Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service
- National Offender Management Service
- Office of the Public Guardian
- Legal Aid Agency
- Judicial Appointments Commission.
Consequently, a huge range of career options are available, including roles for policy advisors, research analysts, prison guards, probation officers, accountants, HR executives, I.T. specialists and administrators.
When it comes to dealing with the government’s own legal matters though, the government also has its own team of hotshot lawyers, a.k.a. the Government Legal Service (GLS), who offer legal advice to the government on all kinds of sensitive and politically important matters. These guys also play an integral role in turning policy into law.
What careers are available in the Ministry of Justice?
If you pursue a career with the Ministry of Justice or one of its executive agencies, you could be working in the back office, or you could be working on the frontline and getting involved with the hands-on offender management side of things as a probation officer or prison officer.
The civil servants that undertake back office functions help to make the UK’s justice system the best it can possibly be. If you pursue a career in this area, you could be providing vital support to ministers and policy-makers by conducting statistical or social research and offering advice and guidance on the formulation of policies relating to the justice system.
Alternatively, you could be supporting the decision makers that regulate and control the justice system through the provision of administrative or I.T. support, or by taking on a role in a corporate services department and focusing on HR, marketing or finance.
If you become a probation officer, you will be supervising offenders, assessing their behaviour and providing advice to the courts on the sentences that they should receive. Furthermore, you will be offering guidance to the parole boards that decide whether to release a prisoner or not. These guys also provide support to offenders, working alongside them to help rehabilitate them and integrate them back into society.
Understandably, prison officers work in prisons or young offenders institutions to supervise convicted criminals. If you work in this area, you will be undertaking necessary security procedures, providing support to prisoners and working to help rehabilitate them. These guys are integral for maintaining order in the UK’s correctional institutions.
Everyone who is employed by the Ministry of Justice or one of its executive agencies is required to undergo a Disclosure Scotland security check. However, some roles may require candidates to obtain a higher form of security clearance, such as a Disclosure and Barring Service check – formerly known as a CRB check – or a Counter Terrorism Check (CTC).
The Government Legal Service employs an absolute plethora of lawyers and trainee lawyers. If you become a lawyer for the GLS you will get the opportunity to work in all kinds of central government departments, such as the Home Office, the Department for Work & Pensions and the Ministry of Justice.
Both solicitors and barristers are required by the GLS to handle the government’s legal matters. These guys provide legal advice on all kinds of politically sensitive issues and work alongside policy advisors to help draft bills that are voted on by ministers in parliament before being turned into laws.
The Government Legal Service does not currently recruit legal support staff, such as paralegals and legal secretaries. However, they do provide fantastic opportunities for budding solicitors and barristers each year through their Legal Trainee Scheme, offering training contracts and pupillages to around 30 people annually.
For more information on the Government Legal Services’ involvement in the creation of new legislation, check out the Legislative Work subsector now. For more detail on the work of trainee lawyers, check out the wealth of information in our Law sector!