On the extended hours court project, I have read with appropriate respect and, I hope, care the contribution by Lord Justice Fulford.
I speak only regarding a pilot in the criminal courts. For civil and family cases, different objections may well apply. But:
- the move has been well and truly tried and tested – and found wanting and disproportionately expensive;
- the courts are there to serve the public, rather than ‘arm’s-length’ bean counters with graphs that can, if required, prove that the earth is flat;
- we have yet to see any evidence of a public clamour for longer, more traumatic exposure to the court system;
- during current opening hours, magistrates’ courts already lack the capacity to keep themselves fully occupied because of a policy – rightly or wrongly – to divert defendants from court appearances, with reduced cost seemingly the major factor; and
- we have yet to see any figures for the ‘hidden’ costs that come with longer opening hours (heating, lighting, security, prisoner delivery to the courts and the rest).
The true challenges in our criminal justice system are underfunding; undervaluing of experienced professionals who know what they are talking about; and a failure to grasp the nettle of offender rehabilitation.
Those long-neglected imperatives seem to come nowhere in the pecking order, in contrast with a misconceived and rightly ridiculed rerun of a non-answer to the system’s ills.
Malcolm Fowler, Kings Heath, Birmingham