Rises in spending on the magistrates' courts and the Crown Court in the past ten years pose difficult choices for the coalition government, according to a report published today by the independent Centre for Crime and Justice Studies. The report is part of the Spending Briefing series, funded by the Hadley Foundation, which documents trends in criminal justice spending.
Magistrates' courts' and Crown Court expenditure 1999-2009 highlights the following:
Staff numbers have declined over the past three years by 12 per cent. The magistrates' courts have lost 1,088 staff, equivalent to 14 per cent of their staffing complement, and the Crown Court has lost 150 staff or 6 per cent.
Research director at the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies and co-author of the report, Dr Roger Grimshaw said:
`With an annual billion pound bill for the criminal courts arriving in the government's in-tray, many magistrates' courts are earmarked for closure but we hear little about the massive expansion of cases decided by police and prosecutors. Where is the debate about open and fair justice? Are we blindly walking towards justice delivered by officials and consigning lay magistrates to history?'
Richard Garside director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies said:
`As arguments over public spending continue, and scale of the proposed cuts become clear, this briefing on the criminal justice system's Cinderella service offers important insights into the challenges facing the coalition.'
Richard Garside, 020 7840 6110
Roger Grimshaw, 020 7840 6110
Notes for editors
Magistrates' courts' and Crown Court expenditure 1999-2009 is written by Roger Grimshaw and Helen Mills, with Arianna Silvestri and Felicia Silberhorn-Armantrading at the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies. The report is based on data collected by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy and Her Majesty's Courts Service. It will be available to download via our website or in hard copy at a later date. The views expressed in the report are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies.
Out-of-court disposals are penalties or cautions issued by police and prosecutors. The House of Commons Justice Committee has stated that ` ... the growth in the number of out-of-court disposals represents a fundamental change to our concept of a criminal justice system'. House of Commons Justice Committee (2009), The Crown Prosecution Service: Gatekeeper of the Criminal Justice System, Ninth Report of Session 2008-09.
On 23 June 2010, a consultation was launched on proposals to close 103 Magistrates' courts and 54 county courts, described by the new government as `underused and inadequate' in England and Wales. It was expected that `running cost savings of around £15.3m per year could be achieved along with a saving of £21.5m on maintenance costs that could be avoided' (MoJ press release, `Consultations on local courts published', 23 June 2010).
For information about government plans to restructure the court system, see Ministry of Justice (2010b), Draft Structural Reform Plan, July 2010.
The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies is an independent charity that informs and educates about all aspects of crime and criminal justice. We provide information, produce research and carry out policy analysis to encourage and facilitate an understanding of the complex nature of issues concerning crime. We are a membership organisation working with practitioners, policy makers, academics and students, the media and voluntary sector, offering a programme of events, publications and online resources. www.crimeandjustice.org.uk.