A SENIOR Swindon solicitor has spoken out against the opening up of magistrates’ court on Saturdays.
The Princes Street court already opens on Saturday mornings for cases deemed so serious by the police that the suspects involved have been held in the cells.
But the HM Courts and Tribunal Service has confirmed to the Adver that Swindon Magistrates’ Court will now also be dealing with drink driving and other traffic offences from Saturday, August 15.
Lawyers and their clients can apply to have cases moved to a weekday if they aren’t able to attend.
A spokesman said: “The range of cases heard at Swindon Magistrates’ on a Saturday will be temporarily extended to help reduce the overall caseload and ensure swift justice.”
HMCTS has said the Legal Aid Agency will arrange for additional duty solicitors to be available, with cover being organised on a voluntary basis.
But the Adver understands solicitors’ firms will not be paid extra to cover the Saturday courts.
And Swindon solicitor Rob Ross, who runs Victoria Road-based firm Ross Solicitors, has spoken out about the change.
He said: “I can’t expect my staff to do things for nothing.
“We’ve told them [HMCTS] we’re being offered absolutely nothing and put ourselves out.”
The experienced lawyer questioned why there was a need to run Saturday courts when the courts were oftentimes sitting idle from Monday to Friday.
“Why are you having to have Saturday courts to get rid of a backlog when you’re not using courts during the week?” he asked.
In a message to the Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, South Swindon MP Robert Buckland, Mr Ross said: “Why don’t you come and talk to people who are actually working on the coal face and find out what it is actually like, then you might get some conception about how to make things better.”
A spokesman for Mr Buckland replied: “Solicitors will get paid for the work they do and it is misleading to suggest otherwise.
“Magistrates are of course volunteers and Robert is extremely grateful to them for rising to the challenge coronavirus has given the justice system.
“The Lord Chancellor has spent almost all of his professional career working in courts and speaks to practitioners on an almost daily basis.
“There seems little point in speaking with Mr Ross as you can find out whatever’s on his mind by opening a local newspaper on any given day.”