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Courts: Magistrates'

Volume 688: debated on Tuesday 9 January 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many magistrates’ courts have been closed or amalgamated since the beginning of 1997. [HL977]

The table below details the magistrates’ court closures and amalgamations that the department has been notified of since May 1997.

Up until 1 April 2005 magistrates’ courts were the responsibility of locally managed magistrates’ courts committees who were statutorily independent. They were not required by statute to inform the department of any magistrates’ courts closures that were not subject to an appeal under Section 56(3) of the Justices of the Peace Act 1997 (now repealed). Since May 1997 a number of new courthouses have been built.

Magistrates’ Courts

Year

Courthouse closed

Date of closure

1997

Bromsgrove

31 May 1997

1997

Ledbury

31 May 1997

1997

Hebburn

5 June 1997

1997

South Shields (Kepple Street)

5 June 1997

1997

Chippenham (Market Place)

30 June 1997

1997

Ashton-Under-Lyne (Manchester Road)

31 August 1997

1997

Duckinsfield

31 August 1997

1997

Thorne

31 August 1997

1997

Pontardawe

9 October 1997

1997

Braintree

31 December 1997

1997

Stokeley

31 December 1997

1997

Clacton-on-Sea

31 December 1997

1997

Bargoed

31 December 1997

1997

Monmouth

31 December 1997

1997

Pontlttyn

31 December 1997

1997

Pontypool

31 December 1997

1998

Malton

6 February 1998

1998

Marlborough Street

31 March 1998

1998

Bishop's Stortford

31 March 1998

1998

Hatfield

31 March 1998

1998

Hitchin

31 March 1998

1998

Market Rasen

31 March 1998

1998

Chertsey

31 March 1998

1998

Farnham

31 March 1998

1998

Oxted

31 March 1998

1998

Lutterworth

31 July 1998

1998

Ripon

1 August 1998

1998

Barnard Castle

31 December 1998

1998

Clerkenwell

31 December 1998

1998

Sheerness

31 December 1998

1998

West Mailing

31 December 1998

1998

Lytham

31 December 1998

1998

Diss

31 December 1998

1998

Corwen

31 December 1998

1998

Felixstowe

31 December 1998

1998

Haverhill

31 December 1998

1998

Saxmundam

31 December 1998

1998

Stowmarket

31 December 1998

1998

Newmarket

31 December 1998

1998

March

31 December 1998

1998

Saffron Walden

31 December 1998

1999

Christchurch

31 March 1999

1999

Abingdon

31 March 1999

1999

Henley-on-Thames

31 March 1999

1999

Windsor

31 March 1999

1999

Morley

31 March 1999

1999

Pudsey

31 March 1999

1999

Stow-on-the-Wold

30 June 1999

2000

Ampthill

1 January 2000

2000

Biggleswade

1 January 2000

2000

Dunstable

1 January 2000

2000

Leighton Buzzard

1 January 2000

2000

Lichfield

31 March 2000

2000

Keighley

1 April 2000

2000

Keswick

30 April 2000

2000

Windermere

31 May 2000

2000

Wigton

31 May 2000

2000

Appleby

31 May 2000

2000

Gravesend

9 June 2000

2000

Wootton Bassett

2 October 2000

2000

Abergele

31 December 2000

2001

Alfreton

1 January 2001

2001

Ashbourne

1 January 2001

2001

Bakewell

1 January 2001

2001

Matlock

1 January 2001

2001

Leigh

31 March 2001

2001

Middleton

31 March 2001

2001

Leek

31 March 2001

2001

Worcester

31 March 2001

2001

Warrington Patten Hall

1 April 2001

2001

Macclesfield Park Green

1 April 2001

2001

Bideford

30 April 2001

2001

Exmouth

30 April 2001

2001

Kingsbridge

30 April 2001

2001

South Molton

30 April 2001

2001

Teignmouth

30 April 2001

2001

Tavistock

30 April 2001

2001

Axminster

4 May 2001

2001

Tiverton

4 May 2001

2001

Newquay

30 June 2001

2001

Southampton (Commercial Road)

31 August 2001

2001

Womborne

1 September 2001

2001

Gillingham

30 September 2001

2001

Bridlington

9 November 2001

2001

Brough

9 November 2001

2001

Driffield

9 November 2001

2001

Hull (Guildhall)

9 November 2001

2001

Hull (Lowgate)

9 November 2001

2001

Pocklington

9 November 2001

2001

Withensea

9 November 2001

2001

Arundel

1 December 2001

2002

Bridgenorth

31 January 2002

2002

Leominster

31 January 2002

2002

Fakenham

1 May 2002

2002

Tunbridge Wells

2 June 2002

2002

Beaconsfield

1 July 2002

2002

Buckingham

1 July 2002

2002

Evesham

30 November 2002

2003

Thame

31 January 2003

2003

Droitwitch

21 March 2003

2003

Machynlleth

21 March 2003

2003

Chester-le-Street

21 March 2003

2003

Rugeley

21 May 2003

2003

Lempeter

9 June 2003

2003

Tenby

30 June 2003

2003

Camberley

30 June 2003

2003

Trowbridge

30 September 2003

2003

Whitchurch

3 October 2003

2003

Long Sutton

31 October 2003

2003

Caistor

31 December 2003

2003

Horncastle

31 December 2003

2004

Richmond

31 March 2004

2004

Stourbridge

23 June 2004

2006

Wetherby

7 March 2006

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether delays in bringing those charged with offences before magistrates’ courts have increased as a result of closing smaller courts; and, if so, to what extent. [HL978]

It is not possible to attribute any changes in delay specifically to the closure of smaller courts. However, the estimated average time from offence to first listing for charged indictable/triable-either-way cases in 2005 was 60 days, a 9 per cent decrease in delay from 66 days in 1997.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

By how much failure by persons charged to attend courts has increased since 1997 (a) in absolute terms, and (b) in relation to total cases heard in magistrates’ courts. [HL979]

Her Majesty’s Court Service (HMCS) collects information on the number of magistrates’ court trials which were ineffective because the defendant was absent. This covers trials only, which may include both charged and summonsed cases. The available information is provided in the table below.

Number of recorded ineffective trials where defendant absent (trial did not proceed in absence)

Total number of recorded trials

Defendant recorded absent as proportion (%) of total recorded trials

2003-04

9,200

182,300

5.0

2004-05

7,100

190,500

3.7

2005-06

4,700

184,000

2.6

This data collection only covers trials and not other hearing types where the defendant's attendance may be required. Information is therefore not available for other areas of magistrates’ business (first listings, guilty plea hearings, et cetera.)

The financial year 2003-04 is the earliest year for which data are available. Data for 1997 are not available.

Source: Cracked and Ineffective Trial Monitoring Form, HMCS

Note: Figures have been rounded to the nearest 100.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether delays between conviction and sentencing in magistrates’ courts have increased since 1997; and, if so, by how much. [HL980]

The estimated average time from date of verdict to completion in magistrates’ courts for indictable/triable-either-way cases decreased from seven days in 1997 to six days in 2005. These figures are based on all completions in the magistrates’ courts and will include cases committed to the Crown Court, and cases dismissed or discharged as well as those where a sentence was passed in the magistrates’ court. This is because timeliness data broken down by case completion type have been available only since February 1999. Therefore estimates covering all completion types have been provided to enable valid comparisons between 1997 and 2005. Recent data suggest that sentenced cases account for around two-thirds of all completions in the magistrates’ courts.