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Fewer courts, less justice? Evidence from a recent policy of court closures in England and Wales

Luo, Yundong 2023. Fewer courts, less justice? Evidence from a recent policy of court closures in England and Wales. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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England and Wales’ justice was threatened when they closed 51% of Magistrates’ Courts during 2010/11-2019/20 for budget savings, manifested in 22% delays in case durations, 37% drops in charges, and 23% rise in crimes. However, the link between court closures and justice is widely belittled. This thesis analyses statistical correlations of court numbers with case duration, charges, and crimes by building a unique panel database of administrative statistics in England and Wales. I use court timeliness statistics from the Ministry of Justice for case duration to investigate if court closures delay cases. The ordinary-least-squares (OLS) estimates show that court closures can delay cases, and the delays can continue to accumulate for about three quarters. One explanation is that the shortage of hearing rooms and court staff lengthens the waiting duration for hearings. Findings suggest that closures could delay justice delivered to victims. For charges (from the Home Office), I compare charges’ responses to court closures and case delays. My OLS results illustrate either court closures or case delays can result in reduced charges after one year, indicating a mechanism that case delays caused by court closure do not allow prosecutors to charge as many as they did before. Additionally, prosecutors’ career concerns (seeking convictions) may explain why prosecutors prefer to charge easily convictable crimes. Findings emphasise justice may be selectively delivered to victims after court closures. For crimes (from the Office for National Statistics), the OLS evidence demonstrates court closures are associated with increased crimes. The rational crime theory could attribute it to lower deterrence caused by case delays and charge reduction. Discoveries stress the effectiveness of justice in addressing crimes could be at risk after court closures. These findings highlight the adverse complementary effects of court closures on justice, which supplements an assessment of previous closures and the 77 further closures. Quick and efficient supporting services could be critical during future closures.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Business (Including Economics)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Uncontrolled Keywords: court closures; justice; evaluation framework; cyclic effects; criminal case duration; prosecutorial charge decisions; criminal behaviours
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 21 July 2023
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2023 13:39

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