Court union in call for Justice Councils

The Association of Magisterial Officers is calling for the creation of Community Justice Councils as part of its campaign to improve the quality of justice in magistrates courts.

AMO, an independent trade union representing magistrates courts staff up to the level of deputy clerk, is concerned that the Magistrates Courts Service is not sufficiently representative and does not have adequate links with the community it serves.

It has circulated a consultation document designed to promote debate on the issue of quality and local justice to members, MPs and other court user groups for comment.

The document proposes the creation of community councils, similar to those that are used in the NHS, to represent the views of local members of the public. It says: “The opportunities for exchange of views between members of the local community and those responsible for the Magistrates Courts Service are limited and usually conducted at the national level through Members of Parliament or lobby groups rather than being based locally in the area in which the particular court is situated.

“There is a gap which could be remedied by some form of a Community Justice Council with a remit to represent the views of members of the public resident within the Petty Sessional Area.”

AMO is also concerned that there is not sufficient diversity on the bench. The campaign documents states: “It is essential that the magistracy is open to all classes and types of person, indeed great care must be taken to ensure that the bench is both balanced and representative of the community in which it operates.”