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Justice Committee report into Court and Tribunal Reform

MA statement in response to the report

31 October 2019
Justice Committee report into Court and Tribunal Reform

The Justice Select Committee have carried out an enquiry into  ‘Court and Tribunal Reforms’ and published a report highlighting concerns around the Reform Programme, and relevant proposals.

Commenting on the Justice Select Committee’s report ‘Court and Tribunal reforms’, John Bache JP, National Chair of the Magistrates Association, said:

‘We welcome this report on the current court reform programme, and in particular its focus on access to justice, and support its recommendations. The court reform programme is complex and ambitious and all those involved in its design and delivery must not lose sight of the importance of ensuring that access to justice is at its heart.

‘We share the concerns set out in this report about online pleas, holding remand hearings by video and how access to legal advice can be ensured when defendants are participating online or via video. These concerns must be addressed before these reforms are taken forward if the reform programme is not to compromise access to justice.

‘We strongly support the recommendation of this report that there should be no further court closures until the impact of previous closures has been assessed. Justice should, wherever possible, be administered locally and many courts are already worryingly remote from the communities that they serve. Video technology has a role to play but it is important that courts remain genuinely accessible to victims, witnesses and defendants, enabling them to attend in person.

‘Nobody wants to prevent the much-needed modernisation of the court system, but as the reform programme continues to develop, this must not be at the expense of running fair, effective courts delivering accessible, visible justice that commands the confidence of local communities.’

The evidence submitted by the MA to the enquiry can be found here.

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