The article does not mention any victims or deceased individuals. : “Raac-Related Closures Expose Fragility of UK Criminal Justice System”

Death – Obituary – Accident and Crime News : It was a momentous day for AJ when he arrived at Blackpool magistrates court earlier this month. The 36-year-old, who suffers from autism, agoraphobia, and anxiety, had been found guilty of harassing a young woman and was back in court to receive his sentence. The stakes were high, especially considering that prison was a possible outcome for someone with his conditions. However, getting to the court from his home in Morecambe proved to be quite a challenge. The 40-mile journey required three trains or two buses and could take up to two and a half hours without a car. Despite the difficulties, AJ managed to make it to the court, only to find a note on the door stating that it was closed due to issues with Raac, a type of concrete that had caused closures in schools across the country in September.

Unfortunately, AJ was not the only defendant in Lancashire to show up at the wrong court due to the Raac-related closures. Both Blackpool and Preston magistrates courts were affected, causing confusion and frustration among defendants and their legal representatives. Many clients have their phones confiscated upon arrest, making it difficult to inform them of any changes in court locations. Additionally, some defendants are homeless or receive benefits, making it challenging for them to receive letters or afford transportation to another court.

The closure of six courts in England and Wales due to Raac has exposed the vulnerabilities of the criminal justice system after years of funding cuts. Lancashire, for example, had nine magistrates courts in 2010, but now only has five. With the closure of the two busiest courts in the county, the pressure has intensified on Burnley and Blackburn, which are struggling to accommodate all the cases. The system is already “stripped to the bone,” according to a legal aid lawyer with 30 years of experience.

The situation at Blackburn’s Grade II-listed magistrates court exemplifies the challenges faced by the criminal justice system. Remand cases from Blackpool were being heard at the court, resulting in overcrowding and delays. Some cases had to be adjourned due to missing interpreters or mix-ups in defendants’ records. The shortage of legal advisers has further exacerbated the situation, with many leaving for better-paid jobs at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Trials are now being scheduled for November or December 2024, causing significant delays and frustration for victims, witnesses, and defendants.

The closure of courts due to Raac, along with the exodus of legal advisers and other staffing issues, has pushed magistrates courts to the brink. The current situation is far from ideal, and urgent action is needed to address the shortcomings and ensure the smooth functioning of the criminal justice system.

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