Shropshire magistrate calls for courts U-turn

A Shropshire magistrate has called for controversial arrangements for the county’s remand hearings to be scrapped.

The magistrate has called on the Ministry of Justice to move the hearings, which have been switched from Telford to Kidderminster, back to Shropshire.

The magistrate, who has served on the bench for nearly 30 years and spoke exclusively to the Shropshire Star on condition of anonymity, said it was "not good for justice and not good for people”.

He said the arrangement made it more difficult for families and solicitors to attend hearings, and for defendants to return to Shropshire afterwards.

The magistrate said: "By centralising the hearings in Kidderminster I think justice is not necessarily being dealt with effectively due to the difficulties people have attending elsewhere.

He told the Shropshire Star that under the current arrangements it was more difficult for families and solicitors to attend court hearings, and for defendants to get back to Shropshire after hearings.

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"If you are caught up in a fist fight in Shrewsbury you should be dealt with as locally as possible and by centralising the hearings in Kidderminster I think justice is not necessarily being dealt with effectively due to the difficulties people have attending elsewhere," he said.

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"There are a number of people who have difficulty getting to Telford already. How are they going to get to Kidderminster?"

He added: "Getting solicitors to travel to Kidderminster for one case is also not cost effective for the people providing the service."

The magistrate added: "It is not good for justice and it is not good for people.

"I need to speak up and make sure justice is available to people at a reasonable level and I do not think travelling another 30 miles for friends and family is reasonable.

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Controversial

"I would like to see, where practical, cases held locally within the county of Shropshire."

The issue of moving remand hearings to Kidderminster has proved controversial with local defence solicitors who have raised concerns over increased expense, travel distance, and the number of people occupying cells.

It has also led to people being held for longer at police stations after handing themselves in, because only one bus a day travels from Telford to Kidderminster at 7.30am.

Anyone handing themselves in after that time is held until the following morning.

The situation has led to suggestions from solicitors that police are having to "babysit".

Police in Worcester even put up a notice telling people "the best" time to hand themselves in. The note has since been taken down with police saying it had been put up in good faith but did not reflect official policy.

Responding to criticism earlier this month a spokesman for Her Majesty's Courts and 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.

"There is no evidence to suggest that there has been a significant increase in the numbers of defendants awaiting an available court, or that cases are not being heard within 24 hours.”




Date: 14 May 2018 | Source: Shropshire Star

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