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Closure of Grantham Magistrates' Court has had impact on case completion times, says report

The amount of time it takes for a case to be completed in Lincolnshire’s Magistrates’ Courts has increased by more than 50 per cent since 2010.

A report before the Lincolnshire Police and Crime Panel next week says that between 2010 and 2018, the average time between an offence being committed to completion in magistrates’ court increased by 73 days – compared to 29 (20.7%) nationally.

In 2018, the average overall time was 207 days in Lincolnshire, compared to a national average of 169.

Grantham Magistrates' Court closed in 2016. (16726097)
Grantham Magistrates' Court closed in 2016. (16726097)

The longest delay appears to be the time between an offender being charged to their first listing in the courts, which in 2018 took an average of 81 days – more than double the national average of 36.

The report notes that 2016, when Grantham and Skegness magistrates’ courts closed, "marked a significant pivot point” and correlated with a “significant" reduction in the number of defendants coming before the courts.

However, it says other factors also affected the numbers, including changes in legislation in April 2017. These saw, “a change in practice” from bail, which is done through the custody suite, to release under investigation, which is carried out via postal summons.

The report said this “slowed down the justice process and created a backlog of cases".

Elsewhere in the system, the report also notes that crown court sitting days are “at the lowest ever”, having reduced by 13 per cent to just 101 sitting days.

“As a result… there are insufficient court slots to list cases… resulting in a 3-4 week delay,” says the report.

The report comes as part of a package on courts in Lincolnshire carried out by Crest Advisory on behalf of the office for the police and crime commissioner (PCC). It’s part of research to design new “performance framework” and get a better understanding of the criminal justice system locally and nationally.

The research also looked at bids to the PCC for a remote video link equipment for victims and witnesses, the performance of a set domestic abuse court, and the mapping of offender pathways in the county.

Lincolnshire’s overall crime rate is lower than the England average, but the report says police still face a difficult challenge with fewer police officers/police community support officers per 1,000 population than the England and Wales average.

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