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Issue:- 24June 2010


MINISTERS announced on Wednesday, 23 June 2010, proposals to modernise and improve the use of courts in England and Wales.

The consultations published today seek to enable HMCS to better provide vital services for local communities. They ask for views on whether to close 103 magistrates’ and 54 county courts that are underused and inadequate in England and Wales.

HMCS currently operates out of 530 courts, some of which do not fit the needs of modern communities. Their number and location does not reflect recent changes in population, workload or transport and communication links over the many years since they were originally opened. Views are now invited on how we can improve the services courts provide.

If implemented, running cost savings of around £15.3m per year could be achieved along with a saving of £21.5m on maintenance costs that could be avoided. There will also be savings for other justice agencies by focusing their attendance at a single accessible location within a community.

Courts Minister Jonathan Djanogly said:- “When public finances are under pressure, it is vital to eliminate waste and reduce costs. The Government is committed to supporting local justice, enabling justice to be done and seen to be done in our communities. Magistrates hear the majority of criminal cases and this voluntary contribution will continue to be strongly supported by the government as the bedrock of our justice system. The arrangements we have are historical and now need to be re-assessed to ask whether they properly meet the needs of communities as they are today – we increasingly use the internet and email to communicate and access services and we travel further to work, for leisure and to do our weekly shop. We now have the opportunity to think afresh about how we can create a more modern fit-for-purpose justice system in line with the way we live our lives today. Not all disputes need to be resolved in court. I want to explore whether more people can resolve their disputes in a way that leads to faster and more satisfactory solutions. Across the civil, family and criminal courts I want to explore ways we can harness technology more effectively so people don’t necessarily have to physically attend court when they give evidence or access court services. We should not think about access to justice as simply a question of length of the journey to the nearest court. In the future, we need to look at whether through the more effective use of video and telephone links and other technology including online services, we can improve the public’s experience of the justice system.”

A full list of the courts in Cheshire and Merseyside being consulted on can be found in the notes to editors at the end of this press release.

Jonathan Djanogly continued:- “The Lord Chancellor and I are keen to hear the views of everyone with an interest in local justice arrangements. He will take all views into account before making any decision on which courts ought to be closed and when. As well as consulting on the courts we need today I want to begin a conversation about how the courts service could be modernised to improve the justice system as well as reduce its costs.”

In order to facilitate the proposed changes, the merger of a number of Local Justice Areas is also being consulted upon. This would allow magistrates in these areas to be deployed more flexibly and allow them the opportunity to provide their expertise and experience to a wider community.

Following an earlier consultation the decision has been taken to close Leigh County Court. Since an arson attack two years ago, all cases that would have been heard in Leigh are being heard in Wigan or Warrington, only seven and ten miles away respectively. This has not caused any disruption to the delivery of justice in Greater Manchester.

Email our news room today with your views on this topic via  Let us know what you think about this consultation.

Did you know?

The consultation papers published apply to the following HMCS regions and courts in Cheshire and Merseyside:-  Magistrates’ Courts; Northwich Magistrates’ Court; Southport Magistrates’ Court; Knowsley Magistrates’ Court; County Courts; Northwich County Court; Southport County Court & Runcorn County Court

The consultation documents are available on the Ministry of Justice website.

The closing date for consultation responses is 15 September 2010.

Domestic abuse given red card by Chris Foy

WITH temperatures already rising and the height of summer approaching, National House-Building Council (NHBC), who are the UK's leading consumer protection body for new home construction is raising awareness of the risks of over-exposure to sunlight for everyone working outdoors.

NHBC wants to raise awareness to everyone working outdoors this summer of the dangers of skin cancer, the most common cancer in the UK with 4,975 men diagnosed with malignant melanoma in 2007. Whether you’re tackling the overgrown jungle where the garden used to be, cleaning out gutters following the recent downpours or just sprucing up the exterior of your home it’s important to take care.

Simon Mantle, Health and Safety Services Manager at NHBC, said:- “Outdoor workers receive three to four times more sun exposure than those working indoors but are often unaware of the dangers or the precautions they should be taking. People working outdoors need to be safe in the sun and to watch out for signs of over exposure in themselves, their family and friends.”

The effects of the sun can be felt by everyone but some groups of people are at greater risk due to their skin colouring or age. Those with light coloured hair and eyes or those with moles or freckles are at the greatest risk. It is important that people working outdoors keep an eye on those who may be at the greatest risk.

“The rise in skin cancer rates throughout the UK is a major concern. It is important that people are aware of the dangers and take the necessary precautions when working outside and ensure that they limit exposure and wear suitable clothing.”
said Simon.

Sun damage can be prevented through a number of simple measures, such as wearing long-sleeved shirts and full length trousers and applying a high factor sun cream which can help prevent many of the harmful UV rays from getting through. If you are working outside for a length of time consider wearing a cap, one with a flap to protect the neck from exposure is particularly useful as this as a sensitive area which is often overlooked.

Wherever you are working outdoors other, basic, safety precautions should always be taken such as:-

► Ensure all electrical equipment such as mowers and hedge trimmers are connected through a safety cut-out switch - known as an residual current device (RCD) - which will stop the power supply in case a power cord gets cut.

► If you are working on ladders make sure they are on a firm footing and secured at the top and bottom if you are working on gutters, for example. Wherever possible have someone steadying the base of the ladder. Never lean out away from the ladder as this can mean you over-balance – even falls from as low as one metre can have serious consequences.

► Wear the right protective clothing - if you are working in the garden make sure you have a pair of sturdy gardening gloves and use garden implements with care. Always store garden equipment away safely when not in use to prevent trips and falls.

► If you are wearing loose clothing in the heat make sure this does not get in the way and take particular care to make sure it cannot snag or catch on anything such as hedges or guttering.

For more information about the NHBC go to their website.

Fact file...

Did you know? It is Eastbourne in Sussex that holds the title for being the sunniest ever place in the UK. The seaside resort recorded 383.9 hours of sunshine back in July 1911.

Did you know? Faversham in Kent holds the recorded for the highest temperature in England. in 10 August 2003 the temperature reached a record 38.5°C

Did you know? Preston, Lancashire, just down the road from Southport holds the UK's record for the greatest amount of rain to fall in the shortest period of time. This ocured on 10 August 1893, when 32mm fell in just 5 minutes!

Did you know? It is Seathwaite in Cumbria that holds our wettest title, holding the record for highest 24 hour rainfall total for any 24 hour period in the UK, 316.4mm felling between midnight 19 November 2009 to midinght on 20 November 2009.

Did you know? -27.2°C is the lowest ever temperature in the whole of the UK. That was recorded in Braemar in Aberdeenshire on 11 February 1895 and on 10 January 1982, and the most resent recording was in the Highlands in Altnaharra on 30 December 1995.

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