Alex Chalk has been warned that he faces a “crisis” in the British justice system, as he prepares to take over from Dominic Raab.
The new Justice Secretary will inherit plenty of challenges, including concerns about delays in the court system and the state of the criminal justice system.
But he will also take over responsibility for Mr Raab’s long-term controversial plan to replace the Human Rights Act.
Concerns have long been raised by parliamentarians, lawyers and human rights organisations, among others, over the proposals for a new Bill of Rights – seen as project close to the heart of the outgoing justice secretary.
His arrival at the Ministry of Justice saw the Law Society warn that he “inherits an even worse justice crisis than any of his recent predecessors”.
Lubna Shuja, the Law Society president, said: “The justice system is facing worsening backlogs, legal aid on the point of collapse, crumbling courts and a shortage of judges and court staff. The new Justice Secretary must get a grip on the crisis as a matter of urgency.
“It is Alex Chalk’s job to bring the justice system back to full strength and I look forward to working closely with him to fight for improved access to justice for all.”
Kirsty Brimelow, chair of the Criminal Bar Association, said her organisation wanted to work constructively with the new Justice Secretary.
“The new Secretary of State must grasp the urgency of following through the final part of the deal between the Ministry of Justice and the Criminal Bar Association. There remain insufficient barristers to prosecute and defend in trials before the courts.
“Medium and long-term reform must start if the criminal justice system is to be pulled out of crisis.”
The role of Justice Secretary also brings with it responsibility for prisons, with Mr Raab criticised by campaigners for controversial reforms of the parole system.
Pia Sinha, chief executive of the Prison Reform Trust, said a new minister was a chance for a “reset”.
“The vital and complex work of the Ministry of Justice has been undermined by Dominic Raab’s reckless meddling and his inability to interact professionally with his senior officials.
“A new justice secretary is an opportunity for a reset on Dominic Raab’s damaging changes to the parole system. Changes to open conditions transfers have undermined the progression of prisoners and effective arrangements for public protection.
“A single view procedure forbidding state-appointed officials including forensic psychologists and prison and probation staff from making recommendations for release or transfer to the Parole Board have been ruled unlawful by the High Court.
The victims and prisoners Bill currently before Parliament undermines the independence and expertise of the parole board and raises wider constitutional concerns regarding judicial independence and UK compliance with human rights obligations.”
“His successor should urgently review the bill and Raab’s other changes to the parole system as a result and adopt a more measured approach.”
Shadow justice secretary Steve Reed also offered a warm greeting to his new opponent at the dispatch box.
“Congratulations to Alex Chalk on his appointment as the 11th Conservative Justice Secretary in 13 chaotic years that have destroyed the justice system. Real change can only come with a Labour Government,” he tweeted.