Proposed changes to listing arrangements for Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire Magistrates’ Courts

Closed 20 Dec 2013

Opened 11 Nov 2013

Results Updated 10 Feb 2014

Bedfordshire
 
The Justices Issues Group (JIG) of Bedfordshire, supported by HMCTS, consulted on proposals to change listing arrangements across the magistrates’ courthouses in the county. These changes were felt essential to enable continued provision of efficient, effective and accessible courts services and delivery of timely justice in accessible buildings with suitable facilities for all court users.
 
This document reflects the responses that we have received to the consultation and describes how the JIG and HMCTS intend to proceed.
 
40 responses commented upon the Bedfordshire proposals, the majority of which were from magistrates (or representative bodies), local authorities (or representatives) or other criminal justice agencies.
 
Hertfordshire
 
The Justices Issues Group (JIG) of Hertfordshire, supported by HMCTS, consulted on proposals to change listing arrangements across the magistrates’ courthouses in the county. These changes were felt essential to enable continued provision of efficient, effective and accessible courts services and delivery of timely justice in accessible buildings with suitable facilities for all court users.
 
This document reflects the responses that we have received to the consultation and describes how the JIG and HMCTS intend to proceed.
 
33 responses commented upon the Hertfordshire proposals, the majority of which were from magistrates (or representative bodies), local authorities (or representatives) or other criminal justice agencies.

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Overview

HM Courts and Tribunals Service and the Justices’ Issues Groups for Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire are committed to delivering speedy summary justice by running an efficient, effective and accessible courts system which delivers timely justice in accessible buildings with suitable facilities for all court users.

HMCTS and the Justices’ Issues Groups keep how best to achieve this objective under continuous review (within the resources available whilst maintaining judicial independence in decision-making). In the light of ongoing reductions in workloads and budgets, demands for increasing efficiencies and the commitment of the Ministry of Justice to maximise the use of digital technology a review of arrangements for listing is particularly timely when taken in conjunction with the need to support the creation of a single family court within Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.

Magistrates have national jurisdiction enabling them to deal with cases irrespective of where the offence or matter of complaint is alleged to have been committed or arisen. Magistrates, however, are assigned to a geographical Local Justice Area (or Bench).

The starting point is that cases are listed before the Bench appointed for the local justice Area (LJA) where the offence was committed. Currently there are three local justice areas within Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire. Bedfordshire is comprised of one local justice area and this enables listing at courts in Luton and Bedford.

Hertfordshire is comprised of two local justice areas; West & Central Hertfordshire with court work listed at Watford and St Albans and North & East Hertfordshire with court work listed at Stevenage and Hertford. A single court at Hatfield deals with county overnight custody work for both local justice areas.

The Justices’ Issues Groups for Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire support this consultation on proposals to revise listing arrangements for criminal and family work. The proposal envisages greater centralisation of criminal and family work in both counties.

The aim is to improve efficiency in listing and timeliness making the best use of court time available. In addition to providing speedy justice for victims and witnesses there is a commitment to ensuring that witnesses and victims have appropriate facilities and security when giving their evidence including the availability of videolink.

Both HMCTS and the Justices’ Issues Groups are committed to the principles of the Single Unified Family Court, ensuring that family work is undertaken in suitable court accommodation separate from criminal workloads with co-location of all tiers of the judiciary. This is currently not possible in Hertfordshire due to a lack of courtroom accommodation within the county court. The proposals contained in this consultation address this problem.

The benefits of the proposals contained in this paper include improved timeliness and effectiveness of hearings through greater flexibility in listing on the day, making best use of agency resources and providing greater resilience to operational risk.

Listing work in a greater number of courtrooms in the same courthouse provides flexibility in listing improving efficient deployment of justice agency resources whilst facilitating productive use of court time. Centralising work in this way also provides greater resilience on the day to cope with unexpected changes to workloads or judicial or agency resources.

This formal consultation is intended to inform HMCTS and the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire JIGs on decisions regarding the listing arrangements for the magistrates’ court.

Audiences

  • Local authorities
  • Litigants
  • Legal professionals
  • Judiciary
  • Court & Tribunal staff

Interests

  • Courts