Derbyshire courts told to clean up their act

DERBYSHIRE Magistrates Courts Committee (MCC) has been told to improve its “inappropriate” arrangements for dealing with prisoners and security arrangements for the safety of court users.

Conditions in “many” of the MCC's 11 courtrooms “are very poor,” according to a report by the Magistrates Courts Service Inspectorate (MCSI) published last week.

These include magistrates having to use the same toilets as witnesses.

During an inspection earlier this year the MCSI noted that “facilities, standards of treatment and information provided were often lacking for others who use the courts – such as victims, witnesses, friends and family of defendants, lawyers and other professional users”. Other problems included long waiting times and lack of refreshment and telephone facilities.

But MCC chair John Gadsby said the standard of facilities was due to courts being rented from local authorities. A handful of the worst offending courtrooms in West Derbyshire were only used a day or so a week and so had not warranted cash spending on them.

“The Lord Chancellor, in his wisdom, has decided we must implement the courts charter,” said Gadsby. “But people locally are quite happy. No one has complained, not lawyers, probation officers, or defendants. They put up with inconveniences because of the benefit of the courts being local.”

The MCC has already started its own reforms and plans a purpose-built court in West Derbyshire.