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Courts: Essex

Volume 486: debated on Wednesday 14 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice if he will develop a strategy for dealing with civil cases in the county courts in Essex; and if he will make a statement. (244676)

There are five county courts in Essex, located at Basildon, Harlow, Chelmsford, Colchester and Southend. Basildon and Harlow are relatively small and only sit District Judges. Chelmsford is the Care Centre for the whole of Essex and Colchester and Southend are both Trial Centres. We are currently reviewing the listing arrangements, mainly for the Circuit Judges, with a view to ensuring that the courthouses and judiciary are being utilised in the most effective and efficient way to deliver the best service we can to the court users of Essex.

During 2009, the plan is for civil work at Southend to change from being listed for a single Circuit Judge every day and towards listing for two Circuit Judges sitting together for up to two weeks each month still at Southend. This will facilitate a back to back listing system for multi track cases increasing throughput, disposal rates and, ultimately, reducing waiting times.

Chelmsford county court moved into a new building in December 2007 which provides modern improved facilities and additional courtrooms and hearing rooms. Again, during 2009, the plan is to create a similar back to back listing system for both Chelmsford and Colchester multi-track work at Chelmsford with Ipswich civil cases being listed from Ipswich. Some civil work and private family law work will remain at Colchester. All Essex county court public law family work will continue to be listed at Chelmsford where the Family Proceedings Court work for Chelmsford is also heard now. This will enable Circuit Judges to sit back to back on public law and civil work.

In summary, therefore, the objectives in this review of Essex civil listing are:

To reduce waiting times and improve our customer service to all Essex court users.

Make best use of court accommodation and judicial resources.

List more effectively and with greater certainty.