The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) is a ministerial department of the British Government headed by the Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (a combined position). The department is also responsible for areas of constitutional policy not transferred in 2010 to the Deputy Prime Minister, human rights law and information rights law across the UK.

The ministry was formed in May 2007 when some functions of the Home Secretary were combined with the Department for Constitutional Affairs.[2] The latter had replaced the Lord Chancellor's Department in 2003.

Its stated priorities are to reduce re-offending and protect the public, to provide access to justice, to increase confidence in the justice system, and uphold people’s civil liberties.[3] The Secretary of State is the minister responsible to Parliament for the judiciary, the court system and prisons and probation in England and Wales, with some additional UK-wide responsibilities e.g. the UK Supreme Court and judicial appointments by the Crown.



Prior to the formation of the Coalition Government in May 2010, the ministry handled relations between the British Government and the three devolved administrations: the Northern Ireland Executive; the Scottish Government; and the Welsh Government.

Responsibility for devolution was then transferred to the re-established position of Deputy Prime Minister, based in the Cabinet Office. He also assumed responsibility for political and constitutional reform, including reform of the House of Lords, the West Lothian Question, electoral policy, political party funding reform and royal succession.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Justice have joint responsibility for a commission on a British bill of rights.[4]

The Ministry of Justice retained the following UK-wide remit:

As the office of the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, the ministry is also responsible for policy relating to Lord Lieutenants (i.e. the personal representatives of the Queen), "non-delegated" royal, church and hereditary issues, and other constitutional issues, although the exact definition of these is unclear.[5]

The post of Lord Chancellor of Ireland was abolished in 1922 but Northern Ireland remains part of the UK, however the functions and responsibilities do belong from then to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, currently James Brokenshire.

England and Wales only

The vast majority of the Ministry of Justice's work takes place in England and Wales. The ministry has no responsibility for devolved criminal justice policy, courts, prisons or probation matters in either Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Within the jurisdiction of England and Wales, the Ministry of Justice is responsible for ensuring that all suspected offenders (including children and young people) are appropriately dealt with from the time they are arrested, until convicted offenders have completed their sentence.[6] The ministry is therefore responsible for all aspects of the criminal law, including the scope and content of criminal offences. Its responsibilities extend to the commissioning of prison services (through the National Offender Management Service), rehabilitation and reducing offending, victim support, the probation service and the out-of-court system, the Youth Justice Board, sentencing and parole policy, criminal injuries compensation and the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

Other responsibilities limited to England and Wales include the administration of all courts and tribunals, land registration, legal aid and the regulation of legal services, coroners and the investigation of deaths, administrative justice and public law, the maintenance of the judiciary, public guardianship and mental incapacity, supervision of restricted patients detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 and civil law and justice, including the family justice system and claims management regulation.

The prison population in England and Wales has risen because politicians of both parties wanted to show they were tough on criminals. This led to overcrowding and increase in other problems like violence, self-harm and suicide.[7]

Crown dependencies

The Ministry of Justice is the department that facilitates communication between the Crown dependencies i.e. Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, and HM Government. These are self-governing possessions of the British monarch, through her titles as Duke of Normandy in the Channel Islands and Lord of Mann in the Isle of Man.

It processes legislation for Royal Assent passed by the insular legislative assemblies and consults with the Islands on extending British legislation to them. It also ensures that relevant British legislation is extended to the islands smoothly.[8]


The Ministers in the Ministry of Justice are as follows:[9]

Minister Rank Portfolio
The Rt Hon. David Gauke MP Lord High Chancellor
Secretary of State
Secretary of State for Justice; the resourcing of the Department, overall strategy on criminal justice, penal policy and rehabilitation, Judicial policy, appointments and conduct, other functions of the Lord Chancellor and EU and international law.
Rory Stewart OBE MP Minister of State Prison operations, reform and industrial relations, probation services and reform industrial relations, sentencing (including out of court disposals), public protections (including Parole Board, IPPs and Serious Further Offences), foreign national offenders, extremism, electronic monitoring, and supporting the Secretary of State on departmental finances and transparency.
Lucy Frazer QC MP Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Court services and reform (including bills), legal aid, legal support and fees, administrative justice and tribunals, criminal justice, family justice, supporting the Secretary of State on EU exit and international business, shadow Commons minister for Lord Keen's portfolio (except for the civil liabilities bill), Parliamentary minister for Statutory Instruments.
Phillip Lee MP Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Youth Justice, Victims, Female Offenders and Offender Health; victims and witnesses policy (including sponsorship of the Criminal Cases Review Commission and CICA), chair of the Victims Panel, miscarriages of justice, offender health and mental health, mental capacity including sponsorship of the, Office of the Public Guardian, substance misuse, Taylor Review of youth justice, youth custodial estate, Youth Justice Board, youth sentencing, female offenders, coroners, burials, cremation and inquiries policy, family law, family justice and, mediation, including Cafcass, veterans, restorative justice, devolution deals, devolved administrations, Lammy Review of race in the criminal justice system, sponsorship of the Official Solicitor.
The Rt Hon. Lord Keen of Elie QC Ministry of Justice spokesperson for the Lords
Advocate General for Scotland
Departmental business in the Lords, and advising the Secretary of State on civil justice (including discount rate and whiplash), legal services, Global Britain, relationship with the legal profession, claims management regulation and the Crown dependencies.

The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Justice is Richard Heaton, who is by virtue of his office working for the Lord Chancellor, also Clerk of the Crown in Chancery.


The Ministry has outlined its aims for the 2011–15 Parliament in its structural reform plan,[10] which commits the department to:

1. Introduce a "rehabilitation revolution"
  • Create a system introducing greater involvement of the private and voluntary sectors in the rehabilitation of offenders, including use of payment by results, to cut reoffending
2. Reform sentencing and penalties
  • Ensure that the justice system reduces reoffending by introducing more effective sentencing policies and considering the use of restorative justice for adult and youth crimes
3. Reform courts, tribunals and legal aid, and work with others to reform delivery of criminal justice
  • Reform the legal aid system to make it work more efficiently, while ensuring that we provide necessary support for those who need it most and for those cases that require it.
  • Develop court reforms to improve the resolution of disputes, maximise efficiency and improve services and work with others to make delivery of criminal justice more effective and efficient
4. Assure "better law"
  • Assure that law-making is transparent and accountable, safeguarding civil liberties and enabling citizens to receive the proper protection of the law
5. Reform how the ministry delivers its services
  • Reform the way the Ministry of Justice works. Reassess its ways of working to develop more efficient shared services, match its provision "ever more closely" to demand, reduce duplication and streamline its functions wherever possible.

The departmental board has overall responsibility for delivery of the structural reform plan. It is chaired by the Secretary of State and its membership includes the ministerial team, the Permanent Secretary, the Director General of Finance, the Director General of "Transforming Justice" and departmental non-executive board members.[11] It publishes progress against the plan on the 10 Downing Street website.


  1. ^ Budget 2011 (PDF). London: HM Treasury. 2011. p. 48. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 August 2011. Retrieved 30 December 2011. 
  2. ^ National Audit Office (6 July 2010). Ministry of Justice, Financial Management Report (PDF). TSO. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-10-296533-9. 
  3. ^ List of Ministerial Responsibilities. London: Cabinet Office. 2010. p. 44. 
  4. ^ "Cabinet Office". List of Government departments and ministers. Cabinet Office. Retrieved 22 May 2012. 
  5. ^ "Ministry of Justice". List of Government departments and ministers. Cabinet Office. Retrieved 22 May 2012. 
  6. ^ "Home Office to be split in two". BBC News Online. BBC. 29 March 2007. Retrieved 29 March 2007. 
  7. ^ What is going wrong with the prison system? BBC
  8. ^ "Ministry of Justice – What we do – Crown dependencies". Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  9. ^ "Full list of new ministerial and government appointments: July 2016". GOV.UK. Prime Minister's Office, 10 Downing Street. 18 July 2016. Retrieved 19 July 2016. 
  10. ^ "Structural Reform Plan" (PDF). Ministry of Justice. 10 Downing Street. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 July 2011. Retrieved 4 April 2011. 
  11. ^ "Ministry of Justice – Departmental Board". Ministry of Justice. Ministry of Justice. Retrieved 14 April 2012. 

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