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Courts closure a ‘threat to justice’

Courts closure a ‘threat to justice’

Plans to close more than 100 courts as part of Government spending cuts could pose a threat to "open and fair" justice in England and Wales, the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies has claimed.

Plans to close up to 103 magistrates' courts could lead to courts diverting more cases out of the system or accelerating them to the crown court, bypassing magistrates, according to a report.

It also warned the Government should avoid "blindly walking towards justice delivered by officials" amid fears over the consistency and transparency of out-of-court disposals.

Spending on the criminal courts rose to more than a billion pounds in 2008/09 but staff numbers have declined by 12% over the past three years, figures released in the report showed.

The number of defendants proceeded against in the magistrates' courts also fell, down 16% in the 10 years to 2008/09, the report found. Its authors, Dr Roger Grimshaw and Helen Mills, said the fall in the number of cases was an "indication perhaps of the impact of the new out-of-court penalties as well as the effect of stricter prosecution standards".

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