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Ministry of Justice plans to introduce more flexible court sittings in the wake of the August 2011 riots have proved something of a damp squib, an independent evaluation suggests.,Ministry of Justice plans to introduce more flexible court sittings in the wake of the August 2011 riots have proved something of a damp squib, with half being abandoned, according to an independent evaluation commissioned by the ministry. The pilot flexible scheme at 42 magistrates’ courts trialled extended weekday and Saturday sittings; Sunday sittings and extended video courts for six months from October 2012.Around 6,000 cases were heard during the pilot. More than 2,000 were dealt with in a weekend court, over 3,300 cases were completed by extending court hours on weekdays and nearly 400 cases were dealt with extending the use of prison-to-court video links.Sunday working was the biggest flop, with no courts continuing with the idea after the pilot ended.The report says that Sunday hearings ‘attracted the most resistance’ during the pilots, with some partner agencies withdrawing entirely on the basis that Sunday courts were not financially or operationally viable and damaged the work-life balance.Limited access to support staff and information systems meant there were more adjournments on Sundays, while prisoners and paperwork arrived late, causing delays.Sunday sittings were felt to ‘exacerbate weekday scheduling issues rather than create efficiencies’, the report finds. While some defendants benefited from an earlier hearing, reduced transport and accommodation options were a concern for vulnerable defendants released on bail.Questions were raised by some practitioners about whether Saturday and Sunday courts provided the best, most cost-effective solution to existing problems of inefficiency.The report finds ‘insufficient caseloads’ meant that courts finished no later than they had prior to the pilots. Inadequate staffing levels and lack of access to information to deal with cases proved a problem at weekends, and solicitors at one centre were unable to access court buildings as passes did not work out of normal hours.Court staff reported they experienced fatigue due to longer days, although some defendants benefited by spending less time in police custody and did not have to take time off work to attend court.The video court pilot tested the concept of linking one court to three different police custody suites. The report says the pilots showed that it could work in practice, but highlighted some ‘delivery issues’, including the need for sufficient space for solicitors and others to consult clients and the need for adequate resources in police custody to facilitate these consultations.Following the pilots, 24 flexible court practices have been retained, the majority of which increase weekday and Saturday sittings and make greater use of video technology.Justice minister Damian Green said: ‘Local communities will benefit from a flexible court service, which will help provide swift and efficient justice putting the needs of victims and witnesses at the forefront.’The full report is available here.
The MotoGP 2021 silly season took quite a turn ahead of the start of the 2020 season as Ducati Corse announced that Jack Miller will be their new factory rider next year. The 25-year-old Australian finally sealed the deal after proving that he is indeed a force to be reckoned with on the Ducati Desmosedici race machine.It was a rough road for Jack Miller when he made his MotoGP debut back in 2015 where a lot of folks questioned the move of the Australian completely skipping the Moto2 intermediate class. After bagging a race victory, Miller moved to Pramac Racing Team in 2018 which saw a great increase in results.Last season, Miller finished eighth overall with five podium finishes under his name. This got the attention of the Ducati factory squad which led to the decision of signing the young Aussie as one of the two official Ducati Team riders for 2021, replacing the outgoing Danilo Petrucci who have been struggling to provide consistent results for Ducati.According to Jack Miller himself, “First of all, I want to thank warmly Paolo Campinoti, Francesco Guidotti and all the Pramac Racing Team for the great support I have received from them in the two and a half years spent together. It is an honour for me to be able to continue my MotoGP career with the Borgo Panigale manufacturer and I would like to thank all the Ducati management, Claudio, Gigi, Paolo and Davide, for having trusted me and given me this incredible opportunity. I look forward to starting riding again this year, and I am ready to fully commit to the responsibility of being an official Ducati rider in 2021.”As for Claudio Domenicali, CEO of Ducati Motor Holding, “Since he arrived in the Pramac Racing Team, Jack has grown steadily, proving himself one of the fastest and most talented riders in the championship. So, we are happy that he has agreed to ride the official Desmosedici GP bike of the Ducati Team next year. We are convinced that Jack has all the right skills to fight continuously for the positions that matter, in every race, starting already this season with the Desmosedici GP20 of the Pramac Racing Team, and taking a further step forward next year thanks to the support of the Ducati Team.”Image credit: MotoGPDucati MH900 Heritage Concept by Tamas Jakus–Ads–