Judiciary and the local justice system
Judicial office-holders at all levels are active in ensuring the justice system runs smoothly in their local areas.
Section 4 Courts Act 2003 established Courts Boards. Each local justice area has such a board with the express duty to scrutinise, review and make recommendations about the way in which the Lord Chancellor is discharging his general duty in relation to the courts in its area, and to consider the draft and final business plans relating to those courts.
Each board has a minimum of seven members and these must include one judge, two magistrates, two people with knowledge or experience of the local courts and two people who are representative of the local community.
The boards meet at least six times a year and one of the meetings is open to the public. Many judges find the involvement of local people who are not lawyers refreshing and challenging.
Many boards are keen to inform and educate the public in the work of the courts and aim to ensure that those using the courts should feel confident in the local justice system.
Local Criminal Justice Board
Each Local Criminal Justice Board has a circuit judge who sits in the area, as a Liaison Judge. The judge is not a member of the board as to be so would be incompatible with the independent position of the judiciary. However the judge receives all the minutes of the meetings and is encouraged to attend certain of the meetings when particular issues relating to the judiciary or the judicial system are raised.
The key objectives of the Local Criminal Justice Boards include reassuring the public and boosting confidence – especially that of victims and witnesses – in the criminal justice system, by reducing the fear of crime and the adverse effects of being a victim of crime.
In many areas the Local Criminal Justice Board has been responsible for having open days when the public is invited into local courts and watch or take part in mock trials and other court hearings. Judges play an active part in such open days both in mock hearings and in meeting the public and answering questions about the law, court procedures and the life of a judge. These days seem to be very popular with the public who attend in considerable numbers.