Local Magistrates' Courts on Closure List
Technology could replace 'underused and inadequate' services
Both Acton and Brentford Magistrates' Courts appeared on a list of 103 magistrates’ and 54 county courts deemed 'underused and inadequate' and which could possibly close.
The consultations published this week seek to enable Her Majesty’s Courts Service (HMCS) to better provide vital services for local communities. They ask for views on whether to close the courts deemed underused and inadequate.
HMCS currently operates out of 530 courts, some of which do not fit the needs of modern communities. Their number and location does not reflect recent changes in population, workload or transport and communication links over the many years since they were originally opened. Views are now invited on how we can improve the services courts provide. The consultation documents are available in the consultation section of the Ministry of Justice web site
If implemented, running cost savings of around £15.3m per year could be achieved along with a saving of £21.5m on maintenance costs that could be avoided. There will also be savings for other justice agencies by focusing their attendance at a single accessible location within a community.
Courts Minister Jonathan Djanogly said, "When public finances are under pressure, it is vital to eliminate waste and reduce costs. The Government is committed to supporting local justice, enabling justice to be done and seen to be done in our communities. Magistrates hear the majority of criminal cases and this voluntary contribution will continue to be strongly supported by the government as the bedrock of our justice system.
"The arrangements we have are historical and now need to be re-assessed to ask whether they properly meet the needs of communities as they are today – we increasingly use the internet and email to communicate and access services and we travel further to work, for leisure and to do our weekly shop. We now have the opportunity to think afresh about how we can create a more modern fit-for-purpose justice system in line with the way we live our lives today.
"Not all disputes need to be resolved in court. I want to explore whether more people can resolve their disputes in a way that leads to faster and more satisfactory solutions. Across the civil, family and criminal courts I want to explore ways we can harness technology more effectively so people don’t necessarily have to physically attend court when they give evidence or access court services.
"We should not think about access to justice as simply a question of length of the journey to the nearest court. In the future, we need to look at whether through the more effective use of video and telephone links and other technology including online services, we can improve the public’s experience of the justice system."
He continued, "The Lord Chancellor and I are keen to hear the views of everyone with an interest in local justice arrangements. He will take all views into account before making any decision on which courts ought to be closed and when.
As well as consulting on the courts we need today I want to begin a conversation about how the courts service could be modernised to improve the justice system as well as reduce its costs."
June 7, 2010