Hard-up justice

The Lawyer's investigation into the state of the magistrates courts makes worrying reading. For the first time, justices' chief executives (JCEs) have voiced their concerns. Most said they were under financial pressure, more than a quarter have made redundancies while two thirds said they had no confidence in the Government's intentions to adequately fund the magistrates' service. Fears that the magistrates courts committees (MCCs) were being set up to fail were voiced by a third of respondents who believed that the Government would replace MCCs with a central agency.

While costs do need to be contained, the future of local justice is important. A criminal justice system driven by cash alone simply cannot provide the level of justice needed. If magistrates are operating to the tune of strict budgetary controls, then it is time to ask what price justice.