Working 8 ‘til 8 – Proposed longer opening hours for Courts by Suzzanne Gardener
Gone are the days when lives revolved around a work life of 9am-5pm.
As you boil the kettle at 7pm to make a well-deserved cup of tea, you realise that you have ran out of milk, but no matter what time of the day or night it is, it is likely that you are within driving distance of a 24 hour or late-night superstore. The supermarkets have adapted their opening hours to suit our needs to ensure that we can access the service they offer when we need it, and now it looks like it could be the Courts turn.
It is not a secret that the Court system is under immense pressure to process cases and many cases can take months if not years to reach a final judgement. So, what can be done to ease the pressure and speed up the process?
Current opening hours for Courts are from around 10:00am to 4:30pm. Within its current opening times the Courts hear a variety of different cases but are limited by time restrictions as to how many they are able to accommodate each day.
In March 2017, the Ministry of Justice released plans to extend court opening times from May 2017 (however due to the snap election the implementation of this was deferred). It has been proposed that a pilot scheme is to run across six courts, being Newcastle and Blackfriars Crown Courts, Sheffield and Highbury Corner Magistrates Courts, and the Civil and Family Courts in Manchester and Brentford. The pilot will see some courts opening their doors as early as 8:00am and some finishing as late as 8:00pm.
So, what are the pros and cons of these proposed changes and how may they affect you?
- The Courts would be more accessible for those of us who work through the current opening hours with earlier opening times and later finishing meaning that hearings could potentially be heard around normal working hours; and
- Cases may be heard quicker as the extended hours will allow for a greater number of cases to be heard on a daily basis.
- Lawyers with childcare or other caring responsibilities would likely find the extended hours impossible to accommodate affecting the service they can provide to you;
- The time spent in the evening or mornings preparing for court by lawyers or carrying out administrative tasks would be reduced and may affect the service provided;
- The longer opening hours would mean more wages to pay which would ultimately fall to the taxpayer.
It would appear that for the general public, extended opening hours would provide flexibility, make the courts more accessible and would increase the speed by which matters are dealt with. It may indeed be that the negatives of such a change would primarily affect those working within the legal sector; those who represent you. Would extended court opening hours really be in a client’s best interests?
The pilot scheme has not yet started but is proposed to run through the Autumn of this year.
If you have a matter which you like to discus with us, please contact us on 0161 641 4555 or 01457 761 320 or email [email protected]