Criminal trials trials and civil legal disputes will in future be heard in 'pop-up' courts, senior judges confirmed yesterday.
Hearings will take place in town halls, hotels or even pubs in towns where court buildings are to shut down.
The plan is part of a revolution in the justice system that will see 6,500 jobs disappear and many court buildings closed in smaller towns.
Savings of £250million a year from the current annual bill of £1.6billion are projected after 2022 – but the initial set-up cost is estimated at £1billion.
The detailed reforms were unveiled yesterday in documents sent by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett (pictured) to judges, magistrates and tribunal chiefs
The detailed reforms were unveiled yesterday in documents sent by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett to judges, magistrates and tribunal chiefs.
Pop-up courts had been publicly trialled two years ago by the chief family judge, Sir James Munby, who suggested they could be set up in pubs.
The documents say: '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.'
The reforms will also include:A radical change in which 840,000 minor criminal cases like driving offences and fare-dodging will be handled online. One magistrate and legal advisors will deal with guilty pleas. Video hearings at all stages of criminal, civil and family cases except the main trial. A new 'common platform' computer system with connections to police, courts and the Crown Prosecution Service. The handover of routine case management to a new class of advisers, not always legally qualified. Judges promise 'supervisory mechanisms' to ensure the quality of justice. Longer court working hours, possibly including evening sittings – although judges will not be asked to work longer hours.
On staffing, the current courts and tribunals workforce of 16,500 will reduce to just over 10,000, and on closures the documents say: