What did Michael Gove learn on his 'work experience' trip to the courts?

Gove is attempting to bring his zeal for reform to the Ministry of Justice Credit: Reuters

Michael Gove hasn't been to a court since he was a reporter in Scotland. Until now.

He told me he has spent the last six weeks in his new role visiting courts in England and Wales and talking to those who work in the system.

The result is today's speech, his first as Justice Secretary.

It's an attempt to bring his zeal for reform to the Ministry of Justice.

Michael Gove's last big government department - education - experienced the same drive for reform but Mr Gove was moved out of the DoE last summer after many in the teaching profession thought he'd overstepped the line.

David Cameron wanted a more conciliatory approach.

So what does Mr Gove have planned for his new department?

He wants more speed, longer hours, better use of buildings, better protection of victims, more video links and Skype and, of course, less cost.

And he couched the reforms with an ambition to make the legal system work for the victims - not just the very wealthy, often from abroad, who come here to use our legal system.

Interestingly, he gave some examples of what he has witnessed on his 'work experience' over the last few weeks:

  • He saw barristers fail to explain why a woman had the courage to press a rape charge but had to wait two years for the case to be heard;

  • He saw cases delayed by late arrival of prisoners, broken video links or missing paperwork;

  • He also saw paperwork - stacks of it - arrive only hours before a barrister had to represent an individual in court.

Gove was moved out of the education ministry last year after alienating members of the teaching profession Credit: Reuters

As a result, he said, the poorest and most vulnerable are being left to suffer twice: once at the hands of criminals and then again in what he called our 'creaking and dysfunctional' criminal justice system.

The big question is where he'll find the money to reform it.

Michael Gove's current department, unlike his old one at schools, is not protected from the Conservative spending cuts.

So he will need to reform the system - at the same time as cutting the costs of running it by up to 20 per cent by the end of the Parliament.

Most people in the system believe that is not achievable.