So now we know some more effects of the law of unintended consequences….the domino effect. Who would have thought that a decade of American banks` (and some European) funding of mortgages well beyond the underlying valuations and payback abilities of the mortgagees would lead to my recent but not unfamiliar sitting recently. Five motoring trials were listed for a single sitting including one with an estimate on the case management form itself of half a day. The result was not unexpected. That single trial did not begin until 10.20 a.m. owing to the prosecutor, an agent, not having arrived promptly enough to familiarise himself with the aforementioned case because he thought it was unlikely to be the first called. Adding to his discomfort he had not been given a case summary and had a page missing from his file and it is easy to appreciate that when he called his first witness the only details we had heard in his opening were the allegations on the court list. His case became weaker by the minute and his inability to appreciate that a defendant with adequate but simple English understanding found great difficulty in answering convoluted questions in the double negative until rephrased by the bench chairman did not help matters. The result was that the charge was thrown out without defence counsel needing to sum up. The four outstanding matters were put back until the afternoon.
There have always been delays in the scheduling of trials but it is difficult to believe that overlisting has been as commonplace as it has been for the last couple of years notwithstanding any deep study of the official statistics.
And today another possible reason for the delay is published: within a written answer yesterday in the House of Lords by Lord McNally (Minister of State, Justice; Liberal Democrat) copied in full below perhaps some explanatory meaning can be found. Certainly costs have been saved but at what price?
“In December 2010 Ministers announced the decision to close 142 courts; 93 magistrates' courts and 49 county courts. This followed a full 12-week public consultation from June 2010 until September 2010.
To date 130 courts have closed: 84 magistrates' courts and 46 county courts. The remaining 12 will all be close by September 2014. The total cumulative gross benefits are expected to be £99.2 million over the SR10 period, consisting of resource savings from court closures of £60.6 million and gross capital proceeds of £38.6 million from the sale of buildings.
From April 2011 to March 2012, 17.5% of magistrates' court trials were ineffective, of which 6.1% relate to non-attendance of parties. From April 2012 to September 2012, 16.8% of magistrates' court trials were ineffective, of which 5.8% relate to the non-attendance of parties.”