Law Society demands a demystified court service

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A BLUEPRINT for a user- friendly court service to rid the law of its cold, intimidating and mystifying image, was published by the Law Society yesterday.

Prompted by what it claims are delays in the Lord Chancellor's Department in producing its Citizen's Charter for justice, the Law Society has produced its own proposals, from creches and restaurants and changes in court designs to extended hours and compensation for unnecessary delays.

The convenience of judges, magistrates and tribunals should no longer be paramount. Timetables for courts should be finalised after taking into account their financial impact, including costs to legal aid. 'It is usually more expensive to keep parties, their legal representatives and witnesses waiting, than to keep the judge, magistrates or tribunal waiting,' the report says.

There should be a clear complaints procedure covering court administration for court users.

The report also includes a charter to govern financial aid which it sees as a vital public service to enable people to enforce or defend their rights. It suggests that details of how to obtain legal aid should be widely publicised, an out-of hours emergency legal aid service should be provided and a complaints system established.

'It is particularly important that the principles of the Citizen's Charter are applied to the courts and to the administration of justice,' the society said.

But yesterday the Lord Chancellor's department rejected the suggestion that it had delayed producing its charter, due in November. 'It is not as simple as say just providing for passengers on British Rail,' she said.

However, the department would be looking at the Law Society's proposals, many of which were already under consideration.