Charity says arrest warrants for court no-shows are a waste of police time

A legal charity says issuing arrest warrants for people who fail to turn up at court are ‘a waste of police time’ and an ‘unfair punishment’.

Friday, 3rd April 2020, 10:30 am
Updated Friday, 3rd April 2020, 12:12 pm
Almost 2,000 warrants were issued in Nottinghamshire last year. Photo: Anthony Devlin

Transform Justice said that the issuing such warrants was often a case of the ‘punishment not fitting the crime’.

Ministry of Justice figures show 1,816 failure to appear warrants were issued in magistrates courts in the Nottinghamshire Local Criminal Justice Board area in 2019.

With 38,000 court hearings in Nottinghamshire last year, it means that failure to appear warrants were needed for around 4.8 per cent – above the 3.6 per cent average across England and Wales.

John Bache, national chairman of the Magistrates Association, said: “When people do not attend court when required to do so it leads to delays in the justice system, which is a waste of scarce resources and may also be upsetting for victims.”

But Penelope Gibbs, director of Transform Justice, said: “Someone who doesn’t turn up for their court hearing may not have got the letter, or may have mental health problems or lead a chaotic life.

“They should of course turn up for their court hearing, but maybe the response to failure to appear may need to be different.”

Ms Gibbs added that failure to appear warrants were a poor use of police resources, particularly for people who ‘seldom pose an immediate threat to public safety’.

She suggested new approaches such as the use of text messages to remind people about trial dates and giving them a second chance to come to court if they can be reached by phone.