In 2010 the coalition Government announced it was to replace Police Authorities with Police and Crime Commissioners and I following this process through with some personal interest. One of the Architects for the PCC role, Nick Herbert MP who is still the MP for Arundel and South Downs spoke in 2011 about how incoherent the Criminal Justice System was and how as the Policing Minister he believed the new PCC’s would begin to fix this broken system. He referred to the Probation Service, to Prisons and to the Courts Service that the PCCs in time would link these agencies together and bring accountability to them. On Tuesday a Junior Justice Minister, Lucy Frazer responded to a written Parliamentary question and answered it as follows:
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what discussions he has had with the Home Secretary on the potential additional financial costs on police forces in areas where the local court has recently closed.
LF: Whilst the Secretary of State for Justice has not specifically discussed with the Home Secretary the potential additional financial costs on police forces in areas where the local court has recently closed, HM Courts and Tribunal Service conducts public consultations when court closures are proposed. These consultations invite views from any affected police forces, and local Police and Crime Commissioners. The Secretary of State takes into account the responses received before deciding how to proceed.
The point is that 7 years after Nick Herbert suggested that this topsy turvy approach was due to be dealt with, that nothing has changed. The fact that PCCs will be invited to give their views on Court closures is pure drivel. It should be the PCC in a given area that is determining whether Courts should be closed. They were elected as Police AND CRIME COMMISSIONERS not merely Police Commissioners which is how most of them and the Government want to operate. Indeed the Government is fixated with getting the PCCs to work with the Fire and Rescue Services and even Ambulance Services so they can be seen as Blue Light Commissioners. The fact is that closing courts has far less impact on Police services than it does on communities. The PCC is the local accountable person, elected to improve policing and the criminal justice system. To treat them as mere stakeholders in the decisions regarding court closures is a complete betrayal of all that lies behind the PCC concept