Gwent courts fall foul of inspectors

GWENT magistrates courts have been criticised by inspectors for providing a 'generally poor quality of service' to the public.

But the Magistrates Court Committee (MCC) for Gwent has expressed disappointment at the negative tone of the report issued last week by HM Magistrates Courts Service Inspectorate.

Government inspectors visited Gwent MCC's courthouses for 11 days last July. In their report they criticise planning, saying that some areas of responsibility have been neglected. They also find fault with aspects of the organisation of court work and facilities.

But the report acknowledges that the MCC has had its hands full dealing with major structural changes under local government reorganisation and that it has been busy with a programme of court closures Gwent once had 13 courthouses and now has only nine.

The report says: 'Inspectors were particularly concerned to find a generally poor quality of service provided to the public, a lack of performance management and inadequate office systems, made worse by problems with the use of information technology.'

The inspectorate has made 33 recommendations for improvement. In reply, the MCC has said it accepts most of the specific criticisms and is working on putting them right. But it added that it wished more credit had been given to the magnitude of the changes it had to go through and that the inspectors had taken into account that 'only so much can be tackled in a given period'.