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Courts Act 2003

The commission of the peace and local justice areas

Section 8: Local justice areas

42.Section 8 places a duty on the Lord Chancellor to divide England and Wales into areas to be known as local justice areas and gives him the power to make orders altering such areas. Before making such an order the Lord Chancellor must consult magistrates assigned to an area affected by the changes, and any local councils and courts boards similarly affected. This section, in effect, makes the same provision as parts of sections 4, 33 and 34 of the JPA 1997 (which is repealed by section 6(4)), but changes the name ‘petty sessions areas’ to local justice areas. The name ‘local justice area’ is considered to be a more modern and more appropriate title for these areas. An initial order setting up local justice areas will simply be laid in Parliament and will not be subject to the negative resolution procedure, on the basis that by virtue of Schedule 9, it will simply be renaming petty sessions areas as local justice areas and will not change any boundaries. Subsequent orders altering areas will be subject to negative resolution.

43.Schedule 8 contains a number of consequential amendments. References to petty sessions and commission areas in existing legislation can have the effect of geographically linking particular cases to the area specified. Where possible this link is to be removed and instead where cases will be heard will be determined in accordance with directions issued by the Lord Chancellor, subject to the concurrence of the Lord Chief Justice. The directions, given under powers contained in section 30, are likely to reflect the policy that whilst in general cases will be heard in the local justice area in which the offence was committed, or where the defendant lives, other factors will also be liable to be taken into account. These considerations will include the availability of court resources and the whereabouts of victims or other interested parties, including defendants and witnesses.

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