News and Comments

MA national chair gives evidence to the Justice Select Committee

Oral evidence session

30 April 2021
MA national chair gives evidence to the Justice Select Committee

MA national chair Bev Higgs gave evidence to the Justice Select Committee this week as part of their inquiry into Covid-19 and the criminal law inquiry.

The majority of the session focused on the use of the Single Justice Procedure (SJP). After describing how the SJP works and the kind of offences it is used for, Bev emphasised that the MA has concerns about transparency and fairness, since justice 'must be seen to be done'. She explained that it was crucial that the magistrate retain the power to refer a case to the normal court process, which can also be requested by the defendant. She added that serious cases such as assault or battery, or other cases that involve victims or require further information such as a stand-down report or a mental health assessment, are not suitable for the SJP.

Out-of-court disposals have risen from 144,000 for the whole of 2019 to 162,000 for just January-September 2020. With this increase, Bev emphasised the importance of scrutiny panels to assess whether out-of-court disposals are being used consistently and appropriately, and that magistrates should be involved in these panels. With the upcoming elections for police and crime commissioners, Bev stressed that it would be valuable for each force to have such a panel.

The MA will be following up with written evidence to the Committee, and will be contacting the newly-elected police and crime commissioners about scrutiny panels in due course.

The MA’s full position statement on the SJP can be found here.

Watch the evidence session here.

Previous Article Reflections on Stephen Lawrence Day
Next Article MA national chair speaks out about family court delays

Please login or register to post comments.