Court table scheme slammed

A GOVERNMENT initiative to display information about court performance is attacked as “hollow” by Labour legal spokesman Paul Boateng.

Boateng says that at the same time as the information is being published, the Lord Chancellor is cutting back on court staff and applying “Treasury-led” cuts to the service, “making a nonsense” of the notion of quality of service.

“The Lord Chancellor's time will be better spent winning his battles with the Treasury rather than publishing meaningless tables,” says Boateng.

The initiative is part of the Courts Charter, launched in December 1992. Each court will display a poster in the public waiting room every month showing their performance against eight standards, seven for county courts and one for crown courts.

The figures will enable court users to compare a court's monthly performance with a month on month cumulative figure.

Boateng, a qualified barrister who still practises, says the courts' charter “has a hollow ring to it for users and practitioners alike.”

Michael Seymour, chair of the London Solicitors' Litigation Association, says the performance initiative is welcome if it can encourage court staff to take pride in their work and lead to a better service.

However Seymour, a Lovell White Durrant partner, says the initiative should be extended to the High Court.

The Lord Chancellor will report at the end of the year to Parliament on the courts' performance. The results will also be published in the Court Service annual report.