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Courts Act 2003


3.The Courts Act 2003 primarily implements those of the key courts-related recommendations contained in Sir Robin Auld's Review of the Criminal Courts in England and Wales (October 2001, hereafter “the Auld Review”) which the Government accepted, in the White Paper "Justice for All" published on 17th July 2002. It also makes provision for a number of other changes relating to judicial matters and to civil and family court procedure.

4.The explanatory notes are divided into parts reflecting the structure of the Act. In relation to each Part, there is a “Summary”. In relation to each group of sections, there is a “Background” section. Commentary on particular sections is then set out in number order, with the commentary on the various Schedules included with the section to which they relate.

5.The Act is divided into 9 Parts:

  • Part 1: Maintaining the court system

    • Part 1: This places the Lord Chancellor under the general duty of maintaining an efficient and effective court system and gives him power to make appropriate arrangements for staff and accommodation. This Part also abolishes Magistrates' Courts Committees (MCCs), and establishes courts boards.

  • Part 2: Justices of the Peace

    • Part 2: This makes provision for justices of the peace and other matters relating to magistrates’ courts. It replaces commission areas and petty session areas with local justice areas and provides for fines officers (who will exercise new functions under Schedules 5 and 6 in connection with fine enforcement). This Part also makes provision about the effect of the Act of Settlement 1700 on the appointment of lay magistrates.

  • Part 3: Magistrates’ Courts

    • Part 3: This deals with jurisdiction and procedure in criminal, civil and family proceedings in magistrates’ courts.

  • Part 4: Court Security

    • Part 4: This contains provisions to ensure that court security personnel have the same powers in all courts and details the powers of court security officers and the circumstances in which they may exercise them lawfully.

  • Part 5: Inspectors of court administration

    • Part 5: This establishes a new HM Inspectorate of Court Administration and provides for the functions and rights of entry and inspection of the Chief Inspector and inspectors.

  • Part 6: Judges

    • Part 6: This allows for alterations to the names of judicial titles and offices. This Part also allows District Judges (Magistrates’ Courts) to sit as Crown Court judges and gives judges of the higher courts all the powers of justices of the peace, to give increased flexibility in judicial deployment.

  • Part 7: Procedure rules and practice directions

    • Part 7: This provides for a Criminal Procedure Rule Committee and details its membership requirements, the rule-making process and its powers, provides for a Family Procedure Rule Committee and details its requirements, process and powers, and amends existing legislation relating to the Civil Procedure Rule Committee.

  • Part 8: Miscellaneous

    • Part 8: This allows for costs awards against third parties in criminal cases and amends the procedures for appeals to the House of Lords and the Court of Appeal. This Part also confers new powers in connection with fine enforcement and revises the law on damages to allow the court to order periodical payments in personal injury cases, makes other minor changes in relation to court procedures, enforcement processes and office-holders and makes provision in relation to Northern Ireland.

  • Part 9: Final Provisions

    • Part 9: This contains final technical provisions including provisions about implementation.

Part 1: Maintaining the Court System.Summary

6.Part 1 of the Act places a duty on the Lord Chancellor to provide an efficient and effective system to support the carrying on of the business of all the main courts in England and Wales, namely the Court of Appeal, the High Court, the Crown Court, the county courts and the magistrates’ courts. This responsibility will be discharged, in practice, by a new executive agency, as part of the Department for Constitutional Affairs, replacing the Court Service and the 42 MCCs. This agency will have local community links through courts boards, established under this Part.

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Explanatory Notes

Text created by the government department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes were introduced in 1999 and accompany all Public Acts except Appropriation, Consolidated Fund, Finance and Consolidation Acts.


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