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Courts Act 2003

Places, dates and times of sittings

Section 30: Places, dates and times of sittings

82.Section 30 empowers the Lord Chancellor to direct where and when magistrates’ courts are to sit. This would allow magistrates’ courts’ business to be conducted at any place in England and Wales. In making such directions he will be under a duty to have regard to the need to make court-houses accessible by persons resident in each local justice area. The places at which magistrates’ courts sit and the days and times at which they sit would be determined in accordance with directions made by the Lord Chancellor. This would bring magistrates’ courts into line with the Crown Court, High Court, Court of Appeal and county courts. The power to determine when magistrates’ courts sit is likely to be used as an emergency measure only.

83.There is no longer to be a distinction between petty-sessional court-houses (section 150(1) MCA 1980), occasional court-houses (section 147 MCA 1980) and any other court-houses or places, which may be appointed as petty-sessional court-houses. Lay magistrates are to have full jurisdiction wherever they sit. The restriction on magistrates’ courts and licensing justices sitting on licensed premises is removed by the Licensing Act 2003.

84.This section also allows the Lord Chancellor, with the concurrence of the Lord Chief Justice, to give directions as to the distribution and transfer of magistrates’ courts business, excluding family proceedings. Such directions are necessary in light of the changes to the jurisdiction of lay justices and magistrates’ courts and the provision allowing for the transfer of cases between magistrates’ courts. Where a person is charged with an offence, the prosecuting authority will decide which court that person should appear before, in line with these directions. The directions may in particular say that the defendant should be taken to a court in a local justice area: where the offence is alleged to have been committed; where the person charged with the offence resides; where any witnesses reside; or where similar cases are dealt with.

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