Going to court on Sunday?

Going to court on Sunday?

Going to court on a Sunday? Probably not.

The criminal courts tried opening courts at weekends, to help avoid the usual rush on Mondays. As the criminal courts have always been closed on weekends, it means that court appearances created by offences over the weekend, took place on the Monday. Weekends can be very busy for the police so people processed on Saturday or Sunday might be waiting until Monday before going before a magistrate. That creates a problem for police who have people they must keep in cells until they have been before a magistrate.

Typically, the Monday morning of a magistrate’s court is full of people who have been held over the weekend for offences carried out that weekend. Many offences are a result of people having had too much to drink on a Saturday night.

Pressure to give the weekend courts a try was increased by the August 2011 riots.

Two years on and the vast majority of pilot schemes have been abandoned. 6,000 cases were handled over the weekends during the pilots so the system was given adequate chance. However, it was unpopular with both lawyers and Judges. Nor was it considered cost effective to pay to keep the courts running over the weekends, as the courts need to be staffed and maintained whilst open.

Going to court at weekends was a possibility for the civil courts as well, if the criminal pilot had been a success. However, it doesn’t look as though that will happen any time soon.

Video Hearings

Of greater success during the weekend court experiment, was the increased use of video conferencing and hearings. This enabled the courts to deal with a defendant, without the defendant having to leave the cell he was being held in. Instead, the Judge and defendant could see each other onscreen. Video technology is likely to become more common in both the criminal and civil courts going forward.