A defendant released on bail had to walk 12 miles on an unlit road in the middle of the night to get home, Shropshire solicitors have revealed in a letter demanding urgent action over what they consider a failing court system.
The defendant's hearing in Kidderminster Magistrates' Court last month took place at 7.45pm, solicitor-advocate John McMillan, co-chair of the Shropshire Defence Advocates Group, writes in the Shropshire Star.
He says: 'The defendant lives between Minsterley and Bishops Castle in Shropshire. Although the gaolers provided the defendant with a travel warrant, this only enabled him to catch a train from Kidderminster to Shrewsbury via Birmingham. He arrived in Shrewsbury at 12.50am and then his problems really began as he could not catch the bus to Minsterley because the last bus left at 6.05. He was forced to walk 12 miles on the A488, an unlit main road with no pavement, for most of the 12 miles he had to walk. The walk took him four hours. [HM Courts & Tribunals Service] have given no consideration to the risks of those defendants who do not live in towns with a railway station nor have they given any consideration of what clothing people are arrested in.'
The group asks the Judicial Business Group to formally review the centralised remand court at Kidderminster. It says concerns raised by email, verbally with court staff, the Ministry of Justice, magistrates and in the press 'has fallen on deaf ears'.
A spokesperson for HM Courts & Tribunals Service said: 'Following a public consultation, remand cases were moved from Telford to Kidderminster Magistrates’ Court to improve listings and trial management at Telford. The operation of the centralised remand court continues to be monitored and we are working closely with criminal justice agencies, professional court users and other partners to resolve any concerns raised.'
The group has asked to see the risk assessment carried out during the original consultation to move remand cases from Telford to Kidderminster and concludes, having not received it, that 'none was done'.
Raising assault fears, which criminal defence specialists have highlighted in other parts of the country, McMillan says one of the Kidderminster interview rooms is out of order after a prisoner ripped the electric clock from the wall, violently kicked the security glass window and kicked the security locked door open, 'leaving his lawyer extremely shaken, but not physically hurt'. On another day, a defendant spat in on the face of a female youth offending officer, who was locked in the same room as him.
On occasion, the remand court sat as late as 10pm. There was one day last month when only one remand court was sitting and had dealt with only four of 14 prisoners by 4.15pm.
McMillan says advocates wants Shropshire prisoners dealt with in the Shropshire court and says the group approves of a proposed virtual court trial which may include Shropshire.