MAGISTRATES need to work a longer day if the courts are to have a chance of slashing the current backlog of cases, according to a leading defence lawyer.

Nick Freeman, otherwise known as ‘Mr Loophole’ says the current working day, which runs from 10am to 4.30pm, significantly reduces the opportunity for cases to be heard and leads to countless and needless adjournments.

Instead, he believes the courts should start an hour earlier and finish half an hour later – reflecting the 9am to 5pm culture of traditional office hours.

He said: “The magistrate’s system is an excellent one.

“It provides value to the taxpayer - since magistrates are volunteers - and in delivers justice.

“The only problem is the day is too short.

“In most other areas of professional life, the working day starts at 9am and runs until at least 5pm.

“Why on earth aren`t we doing the same at the magistrate’s courts?

“At present a decent chunk of the working day – of advocacy time – is being wasted.”

Chester and District Standard: 'Mr Loophole' lawyer Nick Freeman has called on magistrates to work longer hours'Mr Loophole' lawyer Nick Freeman has called on magistrates to work longer hours

Mr Freeman, whose clients include David Beckham and Frank Lampard, says he has on innumerable occasions, travelled long distances only to find his cases are cancelled last minute because there hasn’t been enough time in the court day.

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“The Magistrates and indeed Crown Courts need to be run like a business.

“If a case is listed for trial, then, notwithstanding unforeseen circumstances, it should go ahead.

“And there`s far greater chance of that happening if the working day is extended.

Changes to magistrates` powers means they can now issue prison sentences of up to 12 months for a single offence – a step introduced to drive down the backlog in criminal courts which rose during the pandemic from an already historical high.

The Government claims up to 1,700 extra days of Crown Court time will be freed up annually through the introduction of the new change in sentencing powers.

However, the number of magistrates in England and Wales has continued to fall in recent years, down from 48 per cent from 25,170 on April 2012 to 13,177 on April 2020 – another reason, says Freeman, for extending the working day. 

“Justice Secretary Dominic Raab maintains the Government is doing everything in its power to bring down the court backlog and create more capacity,” he added.

“It simply won`t happen unless we extend court time.

“Justice delayed is justice denied.

“That is simply what is happening now. It must change.”