Extended Operating Hours In The Magistrates Court By The Back Door?

It’s been another long day at a Magistrates’ Court in London, which is becoming the norm rather than the exception.

Today, I finished a Court duty at a little after 6pm, which is not late by current standards. Then it’s back home to begin the rest of the day’s work: conferences, case work, telephone calls, meaning I will work late into the evening. The rest of my work does not stop when I am at Court and the fact that Courts sit later and later means that working days are extending immeasurably. Of course, this is on top of “ordinary” out of hours work, taking police station calls throughout the night etc.

WICL’s EOH survey demonstrates that the legal community are overwhelmingly opposed to the imposition of extended operating hours. In the case of the Magistrates’ Courts, there is already a worrying trend of lawyers, often solicitors and junior barristers, being required to stay later at Court, over 53% of our survey respondents had to stay later than usual, with staying as late as 7pm being common and some respondents having to stay as late as 9pm.

This is having a demonstrable impact on lawyers’ family lives and mental health. You need only take a cursory walk around the Magistrates’ Courts to find lawyers who are exhausted and, in some cases, simply overwhelmed by the current situation. We at WICL recently received a heart-breaking email from an experienced and talented female solicitor who told us that “my personal situation is so dire that I’m contemplating a move out of criminal law – I’m sure I’m not alone”.

I am aware of solicitors who are reluctant to return from furlough due to concerns that they will be unable to meet childcare res