What are Courts Boards?
Sections 4 and 5 and Schedule 1 to the Courts Act 2003 made provision for the establishment of Courts Boards to work in partnership with Her Majesty’s Courts Service to achieve effective and efficient administration of the courts. The Courts Boards do not manage or administer the courts themselves, but give advice and make constructive recommendations to foster improvement in the administrative services provided. There are 23 Courts Boards across England and Wales, one for each of the local management areas administered by Area Directors.
The role of the Courts Boards is:
- to scrutinise, review and make recommendations about the way in which the courts are being run in their area
- to consider draft and final business plans.
Courts Boards work with the HMCS Area Director.
Decisions about court administration can have an impact on a wide range of people:
- individuals or organisations involved in civil; family and criminal cases,
- judges and magistrates, barristers, solicitors and lay advisers.
The role of the Courts Boards is to ensure that the courts are run in a way that recognises their diverse needs. They can do this by:
- promoting effective communication by the Area Director with court users and the local community;
- ensuring that the Area Director takes steps to build relationships with stakeholder groups;
- ensuring that the Area Director takes into account the views of users, including the results of court user surveys and, where necessary, that steps are taken to ascertain the views of court users;
- using their links with different communities to inform their recommendations to the Area Director;
- holding at least one open meeting a year; making the public and groups feel welcome at open meetings, inviting people to attend meetings to hear their views on particular issues.
Courts Boards have an advisory role, they do not run the courts themselves. They provide their views, offer advice and make constructive recommendations to enable the agency to improve the service that it provides in the local area. The Courts Boards have no remit in relation to the work of the judiciary and all members of Courts Boards respect and support judicial independence. Instead they offer an opportunity for local people to contribute to decisions like:
- where courts are located;
- how customer service can be improved;
- how the best use can be made of resources to deliver a high level of service across the jurisdictions: civil, criminal and family.
Each Courts Boards meets four times a year, allowing them to take an overall view of the administration of the courts in the area. They meet with the Area Director, who provides papers for Courts Boards members consideration. There is Statutory Guidance to help them perform their role fully and the Courts Boards (Appointments and Procedure) Regulations 2004 set out some of the key procedures the Boards follow.
Each Courts Boards has members drawn from different communities and from a variety of backgrounds within the Courts Boards area and looks across the civil, family and criminal jurisdictions. All Courts Boards members are committed to improving the way that the courts system works in their area.
Each Courts Boards must have a minimum of seven members:
- one judge
- two magistrates from within the Courts Boards area
- two people with knowledge or experience of the courts in the local area
- two people who are representative of the people living in the Courts Boards area.