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Shropshire Star comment: The fiasco of remand court move

By Shropshire Star | Opinions | Published:

Changes to how Shropshire remand cases are dealt with are rapidly descending into the realms of a fiasco.

Kidderminster Magistrates Court - a convoluted journey to get back to Shropshire. Photo: Google StreetView.

The new system was not introduced for the benefit of anybody in Shropshire, and support for the proposals from this county was distinctly lacking.

And now it is in place, nobody in Shropshire has any reason to be happy with the way it is working.

People who come before the courts on remand do have a disadvantage in that levels of public sympathy are less than they might be. But it should be borne in mind they are all innocent until there is a conviction.

Forcing Shropshire defendants to travel to Kidderminster for remand cases amounts to imposing a punishment without finding guilt.

The way things are working out, they can be subject to a “sentence” of arbitrary transportation and detention, which does not even have the excuse of being in the furtherance of the smooth administration of justice.

Rather, it is to comply with the bright idea of some administrator who thought it would save a few quid for the public purse.

In one of the latest examples of this unfolding disaster, a solicitor told of a client arrested in Whitchurch for allegedly breaching a restraining order who had to be held overnight in cells to await the journey to Kidderminster by police bus.

After a short hearing at Kidderminster, magistrates accepted he had not breached the order and this innocent man was then released on the street and told to make his own way back to Whitchurch.

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This was at the taxpayers’ expense, as he was given a travel warrant.

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Now, getting from Kidderminster to Whitchurch by public transport is not impossible. But the number of folk from Whitchurch who have had, by choice, a day out by public transport to Kidderminster, or vice versa, must be vanishingly small, and with good reason – it’s a long and convoluted journey.

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What happened in this case saw two days of the defendant’s life wiped out, including that period of detention.

Those coming up before the courts can often be vulnerable for various reasons and treating their convenience and welfare as an afterthought is hardly the mark of a modern judicial system.

And we haven’t even started on the impact on relatives and professionals like solicitors who are being forced to head to Kidderminster.

However much money - if any - the new system saves, unless there is a dramatic improvement very soon it won’t have been worth it.

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