HM Courts Service
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HMCS a year of achievements

HMCS a year of achievements

HM COURT SERVICE News Release (05/08) issued by The Government News Network on 17 July 2008

Courts running more efficiently with fewer delays, a greater use of community justice schemes, and victims of domestic violence having their cases heard in the safety and comfort of specialist courts, are just a few of the success stories reported on in the HMCS 2007/08 Annual Report.

Publishing the report, Chief Executive, Mrs Chris Mayer says:

"The work of Her Majesty's Courts Service impacts right across the community, and touches the lives of many people. Our annual report for this year illustrates the success that we have had in ensuring that people have recourse to a justice system that is accessible, and responsive to their needs."

During 2007/08 courts across England and Wales heard more than 2.2m criminal cases in the magistrates' courts; 120,000 criminal cases heard in the Crown Court, and there were 2m civil cases.

The report details the inroads that HMCS has made in increasing community confidence in the Criminal Justice System through innovative approaches which include the implementation of community justice courts. These courts work with local communities to tackle problems caused by offending in the local area.

Other programmes include working in partnership with local authorities in piloting the Family Drugs and Alcohol Court, and continued testing of the Dedicated Drugs Court model.

The year has seen ongoing support for the Specialist Domestic Violence Court Programme, which is now in 98 sites across England and Wales. One of the key features of these courts is their direct connection to advisers, and around three-quarters of clients involved in the court process were supported by Independent Domestic Violence Advisers at court, helping to represent victims' views and provide ongoing support. A review of the first 23 of these courts showed that they have lead to significant improvements for domestic violence victims.

To further improve the court environment for court users, eight new court buildings were opened over the course of the year. This includes the Manchester Civil Justice Centre the largest civil and family court to be built for more than 100 years in England and Wales, which was formally opened by Her Majesty The Queen in February.

A focus on compliance with court orders has resulted in an increase in the fine payment rates and greater compliance with outstanding warrants for breach of court orders.One significant contributor to achieving these high rates of repayment was the use nationwide rollout of text messaging as a means of contacting hard to reach defaulters.

HMCS' commitment to alternative dispute resolution has resulted in provision of the small claims mediation service in all county courts. The use of this service has been high during 2007/08 small claims mediators conducted 3500 mediations, of which over 2400 (some two-thirds) ended in successful mediation.

The report highlights on the successful introduction and implementation of the Criminal Justice: Simple, Speedy, and Summary (CJSSS) scheme in magistrates' courts. As of April 2008, all local criminal justice areas in England and Wales have introduced CJSSS and as a result of this magistrates' courts across the country have reduced the time taken in dealing with criminal cases.

This year also marks an important new chapter for HMCS in the development of a new and unique partnership agreement between the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice for the governance, financing and operation of the courts.

This arrangement, came into effect from 1 April 2008, and places the leadership and broad direction of the HMCS into the hands of a new Board with an independent non-executive chairman.

Commenting on the publication of the report Mrs Mayer said:

"'It is a testament to HMCS staff that they have managed to achieve so much at a time of significant change, the last year has seen a number of excellent projects which need to be considered for nationwide rollout.

"Given the judiciary's new role it is crucial that together we recognise the challenges ahead. Amongst other things, in the coming year we will focus on the court estate, IT systems and delivering a more personalised service."

ENDS

Note:

1. Her Majesty's Courts Service is an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice. It is responsible for the management of the crown, county, and magistrates' court.

2. The 2007/08 Annual Report can be accessed for http://www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk/cms/files/HMCSAnnualReport-2007-08.pdf .


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