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Magistrates Hearings

Volume 545: debated on Tuesday 15 May 2012

15. Whether he plans to bring forward proposals to enable magistrates to sit in community centres and police stations. (106591)

We are currently developing a programme of reforms that will deliver swift, sure and visible justice—we intend to publish details shortly. As part of that, we are considering new and innovative ways to involve magistrates in delivering justice, and we will work with magistrates to develop these plans.

What credence does the Minister give to press reports that police stations could be used as magistrates courts? In relation to these innovations, how many more magistrates will he need, and what will the cost be?

I had not heard that, but it sounds as though the hon. Gentleman could be confusing it with virtual courts, where the courtroom is extended into the police station. The defendant would be in the police station, with the defence counsel either in the police station or in the magistrates court, but the magistrates would still be in the magistrates court.

An efficient and flexible justice system was demonstrated last summer in the response to the riots by all in the Courts Service and the Crown Prosecution Service, and it is to be commended. Does my hon. Friend therefore agree that it is right that an open mind is kept as to how justice can best be administered in local communities?

It is very important to maintain justice at the core of summary justice and in the localities. I should say that neighbourhood justice panels are not about recreating magistrates courts, because, as panels, they reach restorative outcomes by consensus; magistrates would not be exercising any judicial powers in this capacity.