How Gove is dumping one of Britain’s worst courts on Labour’s Greater Manchester


Michael Gove, the justice secretary, is planning to dump on the citizens of Greater Manchester responsibility for running one of the worst funded and performing courts in England and Wales.

It is being packaged  under the slogan ” Northern Powerhouse” but it amounts to making sure Labour has to take responsibility for the court at a time when the government is planning even more cuts to the judicial system which is already in chaos. I have written about this in Tribune magazine.

Already a damning report last month from the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee  has accused the ministry of bringing the criminal justice system to breaking point after slashing 26 per cent from its budget and closing courts across the country. Another 15 per cent of cuts are proposed between now and 2020.

The report revealed for the first time how the impact of the cuts had on individual crown courts revealing the best and worst performers in handling trials in a system now bedevilled by delays, lawyer shortages, and inefficiencies. A backlog of more than 50,000 cases has built up.

On average only around a third of trials in Crown Courts went ahead as planned on the day they were due to start. One in 10 cases were not ready and were postponed to another day. Currently, 24 per cent of cases are withdrawn on the day they are due to start, most commonly because the defendant pleads guilty on the day.

In Greater Manchester, only 18 per of cases went ahead on the day (the only worse place was Lancashire with 16 per cent); 21 per cent were withdrawn on the day after the defendant pleaded guilty and more than half, the joint highest in the country, of cases (55 per cent) are put back because they cannot start on the day scheduled.

MPs tried to get information from the government on how the new devolved package to Greater Manchester would work but were told “there is quite a lot of detail to be worked out” even though the move had been included in the March Budget statement by George Osborne, the Chancellor.

To my mind this suggests that the proposal is nothing more than a” back of the envelope ” job by the Tories who have  not thought out what exactly this will mean. Any sane person would have a plan in mind before making such a radical change. But then that is hardly surprising given the mess Gove has left behind  at the Department of Education by rushing through plans for academies without checking financial controls.

Greater Manchester need to be on their guard that they are not being offered a poisoned chalice by the government – and need to negotiate very carefully what exactly is being offered by Gove to run this part of the judicial system. Otherwise they find themselves the whipping boy for failed Tory policies and  be conveniently blamed for the cash starved judicial system.

13 thoughts on “How Gove is dumping one of Britain’s worst courts on Labour’s Greater Manchester

  1. In effect The Politicians at the Department of Justice are only doing what they have been ordered to do by George Osborn and Dave Cameron but what happened when the two are deposed as new team is appointed after the exit in Referendum remains to be seen. Cameron and Osborn may prefer Gove to Boris who they regard as traitor and May who is to centre ground for their liking. Expect to see IDS back and depends who get the Chancellor role if Osborne is set aside. In any event don’t anticipate fewer pubic sector cuts only more as they deal with the short term reactions to exist and back benchers Brexit championing to go right. Obviously if Labour manages to persuade its core supporters into the stay camp which I doubt, the Tories will split as may well Labour creating a new centre party leaving the right and the left to rebuild. Colin Smart


  2. At the risk of seeming overly pedantic, I think your commenter surely meant not “less pubic sector cuts”, but rather: ‘fewer pubic sector cuts”.


  3. It’s all too easy to put a comment on your own blog, and pretend it is another contributor. Or indeed, for a commenter to hide behind a false persona. Not looking at you, Vernon, of course.


  4. Uh oh …
    But then of course: many use proxy IPs, don’t they?
    Don’t know about you, Victor, but I never bother, as they are fairly easily traced.
    Oh what a tangled web we weave …


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