Proposals for extended court opening hours meet strong opposition
Marc Bloomfield
Description: Legal profession
On 27 July 2021, HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) and the justice secretary, Robert Buckland QC MP, proposed the introduction of extended operating hours to tackle the backlog of criminal cases (‘More courts reopen in boost for justice’, Ministry of Justice/HMCTS press release).1See also COVID operating hours: response to consultation July 2021, HMCTS, 27 July 2021.
An open letter signed by hundreds of criminal barristers and solicitors argues that:
The backlog of cases in the criminal courts is not due to the COVID-19 outbreak. It is the result of years of underfunding of our criminal justice system. It is the inevitable outcome of selling off courts, of reducing judges’ sitting days and of other cost-cutting measures.
The change will allow courts to open from 9 am to 6 pm. The take-up will be at the discretion of each presiding judge and will also allow for pre-trial and non-trial work outside of standard working hours.
In a statement published on 28 July 2021, the Criminal Bar Association said it remains opposed to extended operating hours in any form:
EOH fails to take account of fundamental aspects of a criminal advocate’s working day. This does not begin or end in a court room and a vast amount of preparation and other essential work takes place outside court sitting hours, much of it, without remuneration.
Young Legal Aid Lawyers has also expressed its opposition. On 16 August 2021, it tweeted:
Legal aid lawyers already work long hours. Extending court sitting time would further increase workload, making a career in this area difficult for all, and impossible for many – particularly parents and carers.
1     See also COVID operating hours: response to consultation July 2021, HMCTS, 27 July 2021. »

About the author(s)

Description: LAG
A national, independent charity, promoting equal access to justice for all members of society who are socially, economically or otherwise...