Although crime is falling, public concern has been rising since the late 1970s. The system we inherited was failing badly. The decent majority felt they were not sufficiently protected from crime, incivility and disorder.
For too long, Britain had a 19th century criminal justice system trying to solve crime in the 21st century. Slowly that's changing. In reality, crime today divides sharply between major organised crime with increasing links to terrorism; 'volume' crime such as burglary and car theft often linked to drug abuse; and anti-social behaviour: low-level violence, vandalism and misbehaviour. Yet too often the system still seems to treat each crime as the same, with the same rules, the same procedures and the same sentencing principles to deal with every offence.
How do we build on the progress made?
We need to join up all the relevant agencies locally and nationally. That is why we're spending ??1bn on CJS IT over the next three years and have created local Criminal Justice Boards in every area.
We need to target drug related offenders with intensive testing and treatment, this year in the 30 highest crime areas, then rolling out nationally.
We must focus on the hard core persistent offenders who commit half of all crime and ensure that all criminals are deprived of the proceeds of their offences.
And we must rebalance court procedures and rules of evidence to ensure victims are able to properly tell their story in court and juries here all facts relevant to deciding guilt or innocence.
In each part of our criminal justice system, we are making reforms. Some are controversial but all are necessary and taken together amount to the most significant changes to criminal justice and policing for 100 years.
Changes to the rules of evidence and sentencing in criminal justice.
Changes to the way the courts, the CPS and the police work together.
Changes to the laws affecting anti-social behaviour.
Changes to the way the system deals with drug abusers who commit crimes.
This is the only basis upon which we will continue to get crime down.
Last week I chaired a further meeting of the Street Crime Action Group. Police, probation, courts, Cabinet Ministers all round the table working together to fight robbery and snatch theft.
* Prosecution and police working together to get the charge right.
* New technology-like video identification so victims can identify offenders in hours, not weeks later when an ID parade is finally ready.
* A robust approach to bail, particularly for those who have already breached once.
* And running alongside all this a broader stream of activity going much wider than the criminal justice system.
* Millions of pounds of extra DfES funding to educate excluded school children; run truancy sweeps and provide holiday activities in our highest crime estates.
* New legislation and new commitments from the mobile phone industry to break the market in stolen phones.
* Better tracking and support of street robbers coming out of prison.
* None of these things are enough by themselves. But apply them simultaneously and the results can be powerful. Robbery in London was down over 20% in the twelve months to March this year - compared to the previous year's figure.
Criminal Justice System
Yet as John Stevens was saying at last week's meeting: the lessons learnt apply not just to street crime but across the system.
Where we need to legislate to give the police and prosecution the powers they need, we will.
A new CJ Bill is presently going through the Lords to heated debate. To our Opposition in Parliament and some civil liberties groups these reforms are controversial.
But reform is now essential and urgent. This Bill is the biggest reform in a generation, the changes badly needed.
It is a balanced package.
Yes - tougher sentences for violent offenders and new rules on evidence to stop defendants playing the system. But also a radical overhaul of our sentencing framework to ensure that every offender receives supervision and support after leaving prison.
And the Bill should free up thousands of hours of extra police time for frontline duties.
It is wrong for example that the Metropolitan Police should have to spend the equivalent of 26,000 officer days a year protecting juries from intimidation by the defendant when such trials should continue with the judge sitting alone.
And why shouldn't senior police officers be able to authorise an extension to detention over the 'phone rather than have to attend the custody suite in person?
Parliament must protect the public. Those charged with responsibility for making laws must see there is a public interest to be balanced with individual rights. Upholding both does not undermine civil liberties, but is absolutely fundamental to securing justice and public confidence.
Likewise, our reforms to the former Lord Chancellor's Department ensure that at last the Cabinet Minister responsible for the criminal courts can focus fully on getting the system to work better - bearing down on ineffective trial rates and improving case management.
And we will publish detailed proposals before the summer on a Judicial Appointments Commission to improve confidence in how judges are appointed, and for a Supreme Court distinct from the House of Lords.
Sentence enforcement must be a high priority for the new Secretary of State.
Alternatives to custody must be tough, intensive and credible if they are to win the confidence not just of the judges but of the wider community.
It is completely unacceptable that less than 60% of fines are enforced. So, as the Lord Chancellor announced last week:
* no more writing off of fines if they are uncollected after a year
* a more robust process for automatically deducting fines from earnings
* compulsory work for those who can't pay
* and contracting out fine collection to the private sector where the courts can't deliver acceptable performance.
And we must do more to tackle drug-related crime, not just tougher penalties, but offering drug abusers a way out of crime.
We've already introduced Drug Testing and Treatment Orders and are funding arrest referral workers in every police station. Now we are broadening and deepening that approach.
By September local police will be drug testing every property offender at the point of charge in England's 30 highest crime areas. I want to ensure that we identify every addict and then track them into treatment, managing their case through the whole criminal justice system, including aftercare for those leaving prison. If this works in these 30 areas, we can then extend it.
Offenders must pay for their crimes
Suspected drug dealers or organised criminals with money in their bank account or a home or an asset but no visible means of support will have it taken away from them unless they can show it was come by lawfully and not the proceeds of crime.
Police and other agencies can now seize large amounts of cash being held by offenders and there are tough new rules on banks, lawyers and accountants to declare suspicious transactions. Over ??20 million has been taken in cash in the past few months.
But there is still more we could do to fight back against organised crime.
Some have argued that the time has come to bring together some or all of the national law enforcement agencies which currently investigate serious organised crime and create a new dedicated national agency which could share intelligence, expertise and investigative talent.
We are currently looking at this idea, alongside the review which the Chancellor announced last week on the future of the Inland Revenue and Customs. We will set out our conclusions in the autumn.
Reform what the Police do to reduce crime
We have to help all the professionals, not just the courts, do their jobs better. Power and decision-making should be delegated to chief superintendents at Basic Command Unit level, those closest to the problems of each neighbourhood.
We are extending the range of jobs, including visible patrol and prisoner processing, that civilians or other police staff can do to support uniformed officers.
Fixed penalty notices for disorder related offences are being rolled out nationally to cut back paper work and get officers back out on the street. And we're introducing street bail so that police officers can stay on duty without having to return to the station with a suspect.
Tackling anti-social behaviour
Anti-social behaviour is as corrosive to community life as more serious crime. It is petty crime and public nuisance that causes real distress and anguish to people: vandalism, graffiti, aggression and threats.
Building on measures already taken, after extensive consultation with frontline staff, new Anti-Social Behaviour legislation is proceeding through the Lords.
There will be tougher controls on airguns and spray paint sales. Fixed penalty notices to tackle anti-social behaviour, street crime and truancy are being extended.
Anti-social tenants who make life hell for others should be evicted and local authorities will have new powers to license private landlords.
Restoring cohesion to fractured neighbourhoods
Yet better laws, more police, tougher sanctions won't succeed alone. Our approach begins with tackling the causes of crime: the biggest anti-poverty programme for over half a century, an extra ??750 million into sport and community facilities for young people through the National Lottery.
As the Home Secretary said in his pamphlet last month, opportunity can only work if we rebuild civil society, working with and alongside people, not just for them; creating a sense of belonging, of shared responsibility, of citizenship that engages people as part of the solution, not just passing it on to someone else.
A bigger role for the voluntary sector in framing and implementing local services is central to our vision. Urban regeneration programmes backed with new resources make a real impact where decisions are driven locally, as I have seen for myself in Manchester, Teesside and Liverpool.
Opportunity and responsibility go hand in hand. Respect for neighbours. Respect for the community that means caring about others.
Rebuilding communities and reforming our criminal justice system are both essential for a strong and fair society. Re-balancing the system means tackling the causes of crime, giving every individual the rights and opportunities to avoid a life of crime. But it also means tougher sentencing and new rules of evidence to protect the public and stop the games playing in court.
Now is the time to quicken the march of progress, not mark time.