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Justice Select Committee report on the impact of coronavirus on the courts

John Bache, Chair of the MA, responds to the report

30 July 2020
Justice Select Committee report on the impact of coronavirus on the courts

The Justice Select Committee have published their report on Coronavirus (Covid-19): The impact on courts. 

The Chair of the Magistrates Association, John Bache, responded to the report:

‘The number of cases appearing in the magistrates’ courts has significantly decreased over the last few months as sensible and necessary steps were taken to protect court users. This has created a substantial backlog of cases, which must now be addressed as a matter of urgency. All proposals for addressing this backlog should be considered so that justice is not unnecessarily delayed, but the views of all stakeholders must be taken into account as to what measures will be most effective.

‘We especially support the report’s concern about the effect delays will have on defendants turning 18 before their case is heard and who face being convicted as adults. Youth courts have a distinct approach and it is essential that these cases are prioritised.

‘While we echo the report’s praise for those across the justice system who have kept the wheels of justice turning, we also share the concerns set out in the report about the impact that the use of video technology may have on fair participation. We have long argued that remote hearings should not be used for vulnerable defendants, as it can impact on the fairness of proceedings. Identifying vulnerable defendants and responding appropriately is key, as is ensuring that recent changes introduced in response to the current crisis are properly evaluated before being retained in the long-term. We therefore strongly support the recommendation of the report that the Ministry of Justice commission a review to evaluate the effect of Covid-19 measures in the magistrates’ courts.’

The MA provided a series of briefings  to the Committee on this issue, which can be found here:

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