I would like to highlight how the listing of cases was deliberately manipulated to make it look like Grantham Magistrates’ Court was “underutilised”.
There now appears to be a long backlog of cases waiting to be heard on Manic Monday because sitting fortnightly is clearly not enough. I had noticed that in Lincoln defendants are now being charged and bailed to a first hearing eight weeks later. I thought that was pretty bad. However in Grantham this week clients of mine were charged at Grantham Police Station to go to Grantham Court in 13 weeks’ time! I’ve never in all my 25 years experience seen such a long time to a first hearing date in a case where someone has been charged and bailed.
In my opinion it is nothing short of a scandal how steps were taken deliberately to obtain the results the Ministry of Justice wanted before or around the time it held the Court closure consultation.
1. Closing the Court office and moving the staff to Lincoln or making them redundant. Now they have to bring office staff back to Grantham Court on the days it sits because they can’t manage without.
2. Shoehorning cases into a very few sitting days so the Court was not used on other days and it could be claimed to be “underutilised”. Now there are long backlogs.
3. Running “blitz Courts” during the consultation period (not since) where a District Judge was brought in to crack trials before the trial date by holding additional “case management” hearings.
4. Listing in three Courts at Skegness (instead of the usual two) to cut the Boston workload down to help it look like it could cope.
5. Listing trials in any venue in the County to try to get them heard more quickly.
There is no way Lincoln and Boston Courts alone are going to cope. The Ministry of Justice keeps bringing in “speedy justice” initiatives and complains about delay in the legal system and then their own policies create even worse delays. I am afraid we lawyers are heartily sick of the ineffective way that these initiatives are currently being rolled out one after another. The problem is that they always fail to hit the mark. Presumably this is because the people who dream them up have no experience of doing the work and they never listen to those that do. The left and right hands never seem to be connected.
Regrettably the image of governmental consultations being nothing more than a sham is reinforced by this sort of behaviour and that makes them an absolute waste of time, energy and money. No wonder they frequently receive so few responses.