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Public 'should see justice in action'

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.

Police Courts would mean 'swifter 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.

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Magistrates 'should work from police stations'

Policy Exchange advises having magistrates based in police stations. Credit: PA

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.

Specialist magistrates 'should be ex-addicts'

Criminal convictions such as drug taking are currently a bar to becoming a lay magistrate. Credit: PA

Former drug addicts should be appointed lay magistrates to deal with related crimes, a think tank has said.

Policy Exchange said specialist "problem solving courts" should be expanded to include those dealing with drug addiction, alcoholism and mental health, and restrictions on ex-offenders should be modified to allow former addicts to become "respected role models".

It also called for magistrates to be forced to step down after ten years in a bid to reduce the average age of a group which remained "overwhelmingly white, middle class and old".

Govt: Childcare 'already focused' on poorer families

Tax breaks on childcare used by working parents are already "focused" on lower income families and "will save" parents with two small children "up to £2,400 per year".

The spokeswoman was responding to proposals put forward by Policy Exchange, who recommended the scheme should be cut for parents bringing in £150,000 each.

Tax-free childcare will help working parents by giving them more choice and better access to the quality, affordable childcare they need.

Once fully up and running, the scheme will be available to up to 2.5 million families and will save a typical working family with two children under 12 up to £2,400 per year.

However, the overall system of childcare support remains focused on lower income families, who can claim up to 70% of their childcare costs through working tax credit.

In addition, we have extended the free entitlement to the 20% most disadvantaged two-year-olds.

– A Government Spokeswoman

Reducing threshold by £50k 'would save £52 million'

According to Policy Exchange, lowering the tax threshold for the childcare vouchers scheme from parents earning £150,000 each would save the Treasury:

  • Reducing the threshold to £100,000 would save £52 million.
  • Lowering it to £75,000 will save £145 million.
  • £60,000 would save £38 million.
  • Under the lowest threshold, families with two parents working, with a joint income of £120,000 would be eligible under the think tank's recommendation.
  • Children's centres, local councils and other groups could bid for funding to use to raise the quality of childcare in poorer neighbourhoods.

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Report: Cut childcare scheme for wealthy families

Free childcare for those earning more than £60,000 should be cut and savings used to improve care for poor kids, Policy Exchange has found. Credit: PA

Millions could be saved if tax-free childcare for the wealthy was cut and could be spent on looking after the poorest children, according to a new report.

Up to £238 million could be save if only families with parents earning £60,000 or less had access to the Government's new childcare vouchers scheme, Policy Exchange has found.

A new report published by the conservative think tank recommended lowering the £150,000 wage cap and using the money saved to raise the quality of childcare for pre-schoolers from deprived backgrounds.

Study author Harriet Waldegrave said: "We should be concerned about children...who are falling behind at a young age...But if we are going to maximise the chances of Children's Centres breaking the cycle, the limited funds we have...need to be focused on children in the most deprived areas."