The West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner and Telford and Wrekin Council Deputy Leader are concerned HM Courts and Tribunal Services (HMCTS) are not fully recognising the severe impact centralising remand courts will have on other partners.
In June, HMCTS put forward the proposal to remove the existing five remand courts within West Mercia, and the decision has now been made to replace them with just one in Kidderminster. During the consultation stage, the Commissioner expressed concern that the financial impact the changes would have on services like the police force had not been fully considered.
Police and Crime Commissioner John Campion said: “I am disappointed that HMCTS didn’t engage with me more to look at more efficient ways of making this work. The decision to have only one remand court within an area that is the geographical size and complexity of West Mercia makes no sense.
“There has been a complete failure to recognise the impacts this will have on other services, particularly West Mercia Police. Any savings for the court service could be passed to the police to pick up as a result of having to move prisoners across a vast area. There is also a risk of re-offending from defendants having to make their own way home from the court.
“There are more efficient ways of making this work and reducing demand on others, such as creating multiple remand courts or introducing digital solutions like video-link. I would welcome the opportunity for further conversations with HMCTS in order to review how these other options can be introduced.”
Councillor Richard Overton, Telford and Wrekin Council Deputy Leader, said: “This is a proposal that makes no sense and I would urge HMCTS to reconsider.
“Whatever savings would be made financially are completely negated by the logistical and operational complications that centralisation of the remand court system would pose.
“This is bad news for victims, witnesses, defendants and all their families. It would also mean Shropshire is the only county in England without a fully functioning Magistrates court and you would have to be concerned about the future of Shrewsbury Crown Court as well.
“West Mercia is far too large to only be served by one remand court and I would welcome further dialogue with HMCTS to explore other possible options.”