The Justice Secretary's plans for out-of-hours courts are in disaray after it transpired that defence solicitors wouldn't be paid any more to attend them.

Ken Clarke has decided, after slashing legal aid and funding for law centres, that access to justice is best served by having courtroom hearings in the evenings and at weekends. A six-month pilot has been launched.

But whilst money has been found to pay for prosecutors, court staff and police, the defendants' solicitors have been told that they can't charge an uplift. Unsurprisingly this has gone down rather badly. The Telegraph reports that plans for weekend courts in Nottingham, Manchester and Newcastle have all been halted after local lawyers refused to act and said that they would boycott the scheme. Michael Robinson, a partner at Emmerson Solicitors, said that many courts were empty during the week and "there are more important things in my life than standing in courts on a Sunday".

    A defence lawyer yesterday

Even the terminally supine Law Society has got off its arse to complain, with President Lucy Scott-Moncrieff writing to Clarke to point out that firms would have to pay staff extra to come in at weekends, and saying that she had "significant concerns" about the scheme.

Perhaps Clarke should combine the pilot with the Magistrates' Association's suggestion of open courts in Westfield shopping centre: solicitors may still not get paid overtime, but at least get their weekly shop done while they work.
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Anonymous 31 August 12 12:55

can I make it clear that the Magistrates Assoc does not speak for many rank and file JPs for whom the 'Westfield' idea was ludicrous