MANY magistrates courts have poor facilities including "dismal and dirty surroundings" and inadequate financial management, according to a report.
And while all Magistrates' Courts Committees (MCCs), the bodies which run the courts, have begun to form strategic plans, performance monitoring is poor. The result is that MCCs and justices' clerks "often do not know how well they are performing in a wide range of areas including fine collection and case completion".
The criticisms come in the second annual report of the Magistrates' Courts Service Inspectorate. It must vet all MCCs' administrative performance by 31 March 1998.
Although some courts had "broken seats and graffiti-covered walls", others reached an acceptable standard. This "seems due to effective management, rather than to financial or other advantages", it said.
Poor financial management was identified as "weaknesses in control and the failure to identify potential overspends".
Inspectors found probity under threat where staff were allowed to incur and authorise expenditure from MCC budgets. MCCs also "failed to seek assurance of value for money through such systems as competitive tendering, despite such requirements being contained in their regulations," it said.