Magistrates should dispense on-the-spot justice inside police stations at peak times, the centre-right think-tank Policy Exchange has proposed. "Police Courts would mean much swifter justice for low-level crime," the report's author said.
Richard Monkhouse, chairman of the Magistrates' Association, said:
This report from Policy Exchange mirrors many of our suggestions and we are pleased to see that there is a wider view that much greater use can and should be made of magistrates.
However, we firmly believe that the public should be able to see justice in action and having successfully campaigned for out of court disposals to be more open and transparent, it would seem a backward and totally inappropriate step for magistrates to deliver justice in police stations.
Whether these proposals are allowed to be implemented is another matter, but we will work for our members to ensure that magistrates are valued and trusted to develop our role within the criminal justice.
There is currently a two-month delay from the time an offender is charged by the police to the sentence being handed down in a magistrates' court, the think-tank Policy Exchange said.
Max Chambers, head of crime and justice at Policy Exchange, and author of the report, said:
There is no good reason for our criminal justice system to operate in such a leisurely fashion.
Police Courts would mean much swifter justice for low-level crime, reflecting the fact that if a punishment is to be meaningful and actually change behaviour, it has to be delivered very quickly.
Putting magistrates in police stations will also bring much greater oversight to the use of cautions, about which there has been legitimate public concern.
As budgets are reduced dramatically, the courts system will inevitably have to change.
Fewer buildings will be part of the solution, but government must take care to protect the local justice landscape, underpinned by volunteer magistrates, that has served us so well for hundreds of years.
Magistrates should dispense on-the-spot justice inside police stations at peak times, a centre-right think-tank has proposed.
As part of a radical set of recommendations to speed up the criminal justice system and help deliver planned budget cuts of nearly 40%, the Policy Exchange has argued in favour of recruiting 10,000 new magistrates, boosting overall numbers to 33,000.
New magistrates could sit in police stations - including during evenings and weekends - and other community buildings and would oversee out-of-court disposals, which Policy Exchange says accounts for 20% of all criminal cases.