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Courts Act 2003

Court staff and accommodation

Section 2: Court officers, staff and services

15.Section 2 re-models section 27 of the Courts Act 1971 (CA 1971), but covers staff for magistrates’ courts as well as the Supreme Court and the county courts. It allows the Lord Chancellor to employ civil servants as court staff, so that he can discharge his duty of administering the courts and providing support services. Persons appointed under this section would be eligible to join the principal civil service pension scheme and would be eligible for other superannuation benefits in the same way as other civil servants

16.This section also allows the Lord Chancellor to enter into contracts with self-employed people or independent contractors, as appropriate, for the purpose of discharging his general duty in relation to the courts. However, under section 2 (6), contracting out in respect of officers and staff carrying out administrative work will only take place after the making of an enabling order (that is, a statutory instrument), and subject to prior consultation with the Heads of Division (the Lord Chief Justice, Master of the Rolls, President of the Family Division and Vice-Chancellor). While this section does not permit the provision of persons to make judicial decisions or exercise a judicial discretion, it does extend to those assisting such persons. Taken together with section 27, this will allow the Lord Chancellor to enter into arrangements for the provision of assistants to justices’ clerks.

Section 3: Provision of accommodation

17.Section 3 re-models section 28 of the CA 1971 and reflects the Lord Chancellor’s additional responsibility for magistrates’ courts. Subsection (1) gives the Lord Chancellor power to provide, equip, maintain and manage court accommodation. Subsection (2) allows the Lord Chancellor to enter into arrangements with others. Court land will, in practice, be held by the First Secretary of State (Deputy Prime Minister) (who already holds court land, other than for magistrates’ courts), with whom the Lord Chancellor will enter into appropriate arrangements. The Lord Chancellor’s powers will be exercised on his behalf by the new executive agency. Subsection (4) defines the term “court-house”.

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