Thursday, 18 March 2010

Local Justice is getting less local

In recent times, the Magistrates' Courts have been equated with the term "local justice", a phrase which implies courts being reasonably near to people (who may have to attend as witnesses etc) and justice administered by people (magistrates) who have knowledge of their locality.  The Ministry of Justice has announced the closure of a further 20 Magistrates' Courts which are said to be under-utilised, lacking adequate facilities or not meeting disability requirements.  Whilst some of the closures might be entirely justifiable it is worth noting that since 1997 some 171 courts have been closed and in the period 1979 to 1997 a further 450 closed.  So-called local justice is getting less local by the day.    Ministry of Justice 18th March 2010.

The Institute of Legal Executives is consulting about the possibility of extending the rights of audience of "associate prosecutors" in magistrates' courts (including youth courts) so that they can prosecute in ALL cases heard summarily.  The Law Society Gazette (18th March) is highly critical of this move - see here.  "Associate Prosecutors" are not qualified as barristers or solicitors but they are regulated by ILEX.  They already undertake certain work in magistrates' courts on behalf of the Crown Prosecution Service - see here.

Addendum: 23rd March - The Ministry of Justice announced huge financial savings - see here. The remaining 19 Courts Boards will be abolished.  Her Majesty's Court Service and the Tribunals Service will be merged.  I suspect that the process of closing smaller magistrates' courts will be likely to continue.

1 comment:

  1. The following courts will close: Bourne; Bridport; Cheshunt; Cullompton; Dorking; Eastleigh; Gainsborough; Havant, Launceston; Louth; Mildenhall; Linehead; Sherborne; Sleaford; Stamford; Wantage; Wareham; Wells; Whitby and Widnes.