Select court cases should be held in village halls to show justice in action, according to a Northampton man bidding to be the county’s next police and crime commissioner.
Former policeman Justin Brown has announced his intention to run for the Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commissioner role, with elections almost certain to be held next year.
But Mr Brown, whose 20 year career as a police officer was cut short after a spinal injury, has already staked some of his proposed policies to the mast.
As part of the Kingsthorpe man’s manifesto he said he will propose some magistrates’ court cases are held at local village halls or community rooms, located near where the actual crime occurred, “to help build full trust and confidence in the justice system.”
He said: “I don’t think courts in the centre of Northampton are open to all especially to those living in outlying villages.
“We are not talking about major crime, we are not talking about really seriously offences, we are talking low level crime of local importance.”
In Northampton Magistrates’ Court defendants appear in a secure dock fitted with an alarmed door.
But Mr Brown says the sort of court cases suitable would be for “summary only” crimes where the defendant would have no chance of facing a prison sentence and would not require a prison warden.
He says the hearings could be held in the evenings so more people can attend, would still be chaired by magistrates and see security provided by a small number of police officers.
“There would be a cost for that,” he said. “But the reward we will get in terms of opening up court cases to everyday folk would make up for it.”
Mr Brown as the magistrates’ court is on Campbell Square in Northampton town centre, those living in outlying villages would rarely get to attend a court case of local interest.
But Mr Brown, who is also proposing to take a reduced £26,000 wage if elected to the £70,000-a-year commissioner’s post, says allowing more people access to sentencing or short summary trials would increase faith in the justice system.
He said: “When I was a bobby, a graffiti artist smothered a village in graffiti.
“He was let off with what you might call a ‘slap on the wrist’ and people felt that wasn’t strict enough.
“But if more people could have seen that court case and understood the rationale behind the magistrates’ decision, it would help more people understand how these decisions are made.”
My Brown says his manifesto pledge aims to widen the debate about how the court system operates.
But current police and crime commissioner for Northamptonshire, Adam Simmonds, says Mr Brown’s pledge is flawed.
He said: “Having access to the justice system is really important, but the courts system is just outside of the commissioner’s jurisdiction.
“People need to be able to court buildings, they are places where justice is administered.
“Court cases take a long time, so when a community centre becomes a court where do the other organisations go? What if it is adjourned?”