Should court proceedings take place in pubs?

By Emily Hawkins

- Last updated on GMT

Improving access to justice: a senior judge said public venues should open up to hold court proceedings
Improving access to justice: a senior judge said public venues should open up to hold court proceedings

Related tags Law Judge Public house

Courts should sit in pubs and other public venues to make the legal process more accessible, the country’s top family division judge suggested as he left his post.

Pubs should host court sessions in order to enable better access to justice, it was suggested in an outgoing speech by Sir James Munby, president of the family division of the High Court.

Sir James Munby said “inquests were held in public houses".

“Within living memory all sorts of courts were sitting in all kinds of local buildings, village halls, town halls and so on and so forth, we’ve got to back to that kind of thing," he said.

“There will be cases where you need to have physical contact with a judge but why should we assume axiomatically that litigants all have to go and see the judge? Why should the judge not go and see the litigants?"

People should also be encouraged to give evidence via video link to counter the problem of long or pricey commutes to court, Munby said at a press conference on his last day in the job.

Pop-up justice

It is not the first time the idea of so-called ‘pop-up’ courts have been suggested.

Pop-up courts can be run by judges who are able to travel to accessible locations for the public, with the chief components of a court made mobile and easy to pack up.

A former Lord Chief Justice said there should be supplementary provision of justice facilities to cut down on costs and make the process easier for users, in a report published in April.

Lord Burnett said courts held in buildings that are not part of the court estate should be available “where there is business need”.

Improved access 

He said: “This should offer the opportunity to improve access to justice, but should not be a substitute for court and tribunal buildings where there is permanent demand.

“No premises should be used where the security of judges and indeed staff, parties and those attending any hearing cannot be assured in accordance with the agreed minimum standards.”

The courts and tribunals service courts will soon close seven courts in a large-scale Government modernisation of the court system.

Related topics Legislation

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