Town halls should be used as courts to generate cost savings, the Local Government Association (LGA) suggested this week.
Responding to the Courts Service’s consultation on the potential closure of 103 magistrates’ courts and 54 county courts across England and Wales, the LGA said making use of council buildings to hear cases could generate income to supplement hard-pressed council budgets.
Mehboob Khan, chair of the LGA’s safer and stronger communities board, said many town hall chambers would provide ‘the perfect setting’ for court hearings, noting that some already have existing court facilities. He said: ‘Local authorities are well aware of the sensitivities of keeping victims and witnesses safe. Although specialist courts are needed in some cases, in the vast majority of court cases, council buildings would be more than adequate.
‘The public already feels remote from the courts and the justice system. Speedy justice, delivered locally, will help reassure them that crime is being tackled and offenders punished.’
Criminal Law Solicitors Association director Rodney Warren said: ‘The LGA is missing the point. The cost of running the court service lies not just in maintaining the buildings, but also in servicing the courts in their entirety – paying the legal advisers, ensuring the security of witnesses and victims, and keeping the prisoners in custody. The LGA’s proposals will only deliver a fraction of the savings that the Ministry of Justice must find.’