Responding to today’s announcement on the delay in the consultation on the abolition of local justice areas, Mark Beattie, the National Chair of the Magistrates’ Association said:
“We welcome this delay as it will provide time for various options to be considered before the consultation is published, and we urge the Ministry of Justice and senior judiciary to make full use of this opportunity.
“The replacement of local justice areas with a single justice area is once-in-a-generation change to the way that the magistracy is run and organised. With most criminal legal cases starting and ending in magistrates’ courts, any change must be thought through and implemented carefully. We have consistently said that it is better to take time before decisions are taken and implementation starts.
“Any change that fails to preserve the many excellent attributes of the magistracy or is implemented without the consent and buy-in of magistrates risks damaging the justice system. We have been critical of the way recent changes have been handled (the single justice procedure, for example), so we feel justified in urging extreme care this time around. Consultation and communication with magistrates must be meaningful and occur at multiple points throughout the process.
“There are concerns about the court buildings and sitting in other locations, which could significantly impact local and open justice. We have not seen any proposals yet and will continue to urge the senior judiciary to open up the dialogue on their proposed changes.”