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Will 2018 see the introduction of more flexible court hours?

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Following a significant number of objections from within the legal profession in 2017, HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) chief executive Susan Acland-Hood has committed to re-introducing a range of pilot schemes to assess the impact of revised and more flexible court hours. This follows feedback on the original consultation in which it became clear that as desirable as it may be, the actual practicalities of extending court operating hours may mean the idea is abandoned altogether.

Ideas considered in the consultation included doubling of shifts operated in courts, mixing Crown Court and Magistrates’ Court sittings and implementing procedures to maximise the use of the courts estate (its infrastructure, buildings and services), with a focus on court staff working ‘different’ hours rather than ‘longer’ hours.
Addressing one of the legal professions primary concerns regarding impact on diversity, the HMCTS’s new prospectus “Flexible Operating Hours Pilots” states that:

We may.. conclude that these pilots have shown it is not possible to implement flexible operating hours and that we should not be pursuing it further”

In its present state, the courts and tribunal estate cost around £300m p/a to operate, and maximising the return on cost of the estate is a key driver behind the proposed reforms. Pilots trialling more flexible and/or extended hours  are due to take place in Newcastle, London (Blackfriars Crown Court and Highbury Corner), Manchester (Civil Justice Centre) Brentford and Sheffield.

If you have a commercial, professional negligence or contract claim, see if the team at Advantage can help. Contact us here, or call on 0800 160 1298.

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