HM Courts & Tribunals Service is expected to receive some 'strongly worded feedback' to its flexible operating hours pilot from a housing barrister who had a case listed for 8am.
Extended sitting hours are being tested at London's Brentford County Court and Manchester Civil Justice Centre. Brentford will test 8am-10.30am and 4.30pm-7pm sittings in civil work. Manchester will test 4.30pm-7pm sittings involving civil and family work.
Housing specialist Hannah Gardiner, of 4-5 Gray's Inn Square in London, said she had her first 8am listing at Brentford County Court today. 'Would not recommend. Bad for access to justice, bad for the bar, bad for my mood,' she said on Twitter.
Anyone know to whom I can direct some strongly worded feedback about @HMCTSgovuk Flexible Operating Hours pilot?— Hannah Gardiner (@hannahlgl) September 10, 2019
HMCTS is testing whether operating courts and tribunals at different times of the day offers more accessible justice. In a prospectus document published last year, the agency said it would work with local implementation teams to ensure that pilot participants are informed about their ability to opt out of a flexible operating hours session.
However Gardiner thought it unlikely that professional court users will opt out unless their client instructs them to do so, 'so I imagine most will just put up with it'. She added that she 'can't imagine how court users with kids are expected to make it work'.
Hammersmith and Fulham, and Ealing law centres, which run the housing possession court duty scheme at Brentford, have already made their feelings on the pilot clear.
The Ministry of Justice said it was too early to collate data on the pilot. An independent evaluator has been appointed to assess the pilots and will report back next year.