Tuesday, May 15, 2018


If the current idea to hold court cases in public buildings and even public houses comes to pass, how might this be introduced in Brigg?
The authorities behind this proposal are stressing that  'pop up' temporary court buildings must ensure the safety of the public.
Using a phrase often heard on The Sweeney television police drama of the 1970s, there must be no way that 'chummy can have it away on his toes.'
The main room in Brigg Town Council's Angel Suite would seem an obvious choice, generating some useful rental income for the authority.
However, in line with many buildings these days, there are 'push to open' fire doors in the Suite - allowing a speedy exit if the alarm sounds.
It would be illegal to lock them shut while the court was in session - even for the shortest of 'guilty pleas'.
So you would need 'security' to police the exits, which would obviously be costly whether undertaken by civilians or police staff.
But the same would surely apply to all other buildings across the UK considered for use as 'pop up' courts.
If the authorities really wish to localise court proceedings once again, they ought to consider going all the way.
Let's wind the clock back to the days before the Crown Prosecution Service (with many salaried advocates) was created.
In the early 1980s when Brigg Magistrates' Court, on Wrawby Street, was still hearing cases every Wednesday and Friday, the police prosecuted minor cases themselves.
A chief inspector, inspector or sergeant would present facts to the bench, with the person charged being represented by the solicitor of his/her choice.
This system had been in place for generations and worked well for minor cases of so-called summary justice.
It could do so again and save a huge amount of public money.
We read recently that the CPS is very short of staff to meet its heavy caseload.
So why not give the most minor cases back to the police?
When court cases were heard in the early 1980s at Brigg court, they outlined what Act of Parliament under which the person in question was being charged.
A common one was the Justices of the Peace Act 1361. Yes, 14th century!
This perfectly drafted legislation was used to bound people over to keep the peace in a sum of money laid down by the magistrates' bench (e.g. £100).
The person bound over only had to pay up if he/she failed to behave in the future.
Wonderfully simple but very effective.
The vast majority of magistrates (justices of the peace) are unpaid 'lay' members of the community selected for this important role, but there are some stipendiary magistrates. They are qualified lawyers and can hear cases on their own, rather than being part of a bench.

PICTURED: The original Brigg Courthouse after closure. It was alongside the Victorian police station (replaced by the current one on Barnard Avenue in the late 1970s). The old court and police station have since been tastefully converted to housing use.

1 comment:

Ken Harrison said...

Pop-up court....try Tennis Club!