We are incredibly disappointed by the impending introduction of this statutory instrument, which will be implemented as part of Operation Safeguard’s efforts to reduce overcrowding in male prisons.
The extension of magistrates’ sentencing powers from six to 12 months is something we had long campaigned for as a vital means of ensuring speedier justice for all. It was succeeding—delivering faster results for victims, witnesses and defendants.
This new statutory instrument is likely to slow down justice. It highlights the importance of a well-resourced justice system that can cope with the volume of cases considered by the courts.
We have been assured that the pause is temporary, and we will be urging the government to restore magistrates’ extended powers as soon as possible. To not do so would further erode magistrates’ already low morale and may well result in resignations at a time when the government is actively seeking to boost the number of sitting magistrates. We await confirmation of a date for a formal review of the statutory instrument.