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‘Pop-up’ courts set up in shops

‘Pop-up’ courts set up in shops

Courts could be set up in empty shops to save money and make it easier for those involved to get there, the Magistrates' Association has said.

By setting up shopping centre-based courts near to where victims, witnesses and others live or work it will reduce the amount of time they spend travelling to hearings.

The proposals, which will be submitted to ministers, will allow the public to see the court system at work, the Magistrates' Association said.

Empty stores could provide an alternative to state-of-the-art courts, which are not always needed to administer justice.

John Howson, the association's deputy chairman, said the offences that tend to be dealt with by magistrates "should be dealt with as quickly as possible, as cheaply as possible and as locally as possible".

The introduction of fewer, larger courts to replace more than 100 magistrates' courts that face closure as part of a £37 million cost-cutting drive may not be the best way forward, he said.

"Centralisation may not be the only way of doing it and it may risk compromising both speed and cost effectiveness," Mr Howson said

"Pop-up courts in shopping centres would enable crime to be dealt with and punished very quickly."

He said that if a group of persistent shoplifters needed to be dealt with, bailing them to turn up at court in two weeks' time may waste time and money.