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HMCTS blog on magistrates' courts

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18 September 2020
HMCTS blog on magistrates' courts

Acting CEO of HMCTS, Kevin Sadler, has published a blog about overcoming recent challenges in the magistrates' courts. He describes magistrates as 'quite simply a vital part of the justice system', praising their role in keeping the justice system running during the Covid-19 pandemic when other parts of society and even justice systems in other countries were paused. It would 'not have been possible' to keep the wheels of justice turning, he states, 'without the people who volunteer to become magistrates'.

The blog describes the changes to the magistrates' courts brought about by lockdown and praises magistrates for adapting to working from home to reduce footfall in court buildings. Mr Sadler gives particular mention to those running remote Single Justice Procedure sessions, adding that HMCTS will listen to feedback from magistrates on the performance of the Cloud Video Platform.

The blog refers to the MA’s survey on measures to reduce the court backlog, stressing that 'an enormous debt of gratitude' is owed to the willingness of magistrates to sit extra sessions in the evenings and weekends. Excluding Single Justice Procedure sessions, the blog reports that in recent months the number of sittings in the magistrates' courts is now at around 90% of the equivalent period in 2019.

Looking towards the future, the blog reports that listings are being increased, and that more courtrooms are being opened than was previously thought to be possible. Solutions to reducing the backlog will vary depending on area, but will include a combination of utilising 'Nightingale' courts, remote working, social distancing and different operating hours for courts. For more detailed plans see HMCTS’s response to Covid-19 in the criminal courts.

The blog post ends with a comment on how the magistrates' courts have a long-standing history of 'rising to challenge and surviving worst-case scenarios'. Mr Sadler is confident that this crisis will produce a justice system that is 'stronger, more effective and well-equipped to face a different future'.

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