Up until now the courts have held their regular sittings at times convenient to themselves, and certainly never outside the sacrosanct hours of 9-5. Of course, this meant that the rest of us, who also tend to work roughly 9-5, were likely to have to take time out if we had to use the courts. But that was just tough.
The result was a commendable government initiative for a pilot scheme, to be started in Newcastle, Manchester and Sheffield, together with a number of London courts. Under this, crown courts would start sitting at 9am, with a second shift from 2pm until 6pm, instead of finishing at 4pm. Civil courts would sit until 7pm and magistrates’ courts until 8.30pm.
A commendation for making the legal system more user-friendly? Certainly not: an online petition raised from among the Bar through the armchair radical’s favourite website 38 Degrees has already raised 2,000 signatures against it and in favour of retaining the old-fashioned 9-5. Why? Oh, extended hours discriminate against female barristers with children and a school run to do. Worse still, according to the Chairman of the Bar (whose job description these days implicitly includes banging the equality drum whenever possible), it might impact on diversity among the judiciary by making it difficult for career women to get home for the evening feed.
So there you have it: we must all put up with inconvenient court hours in order to give middle-class leftish lawyers a warm feeling that they’re doing their bit for equality and diversity. Of course, the real losers are likely to be the less well-off, who might well find themselves losing several hours’ or even a day’s pay as a consequence. But who cares about a bit of unfairness to the nice woman who cleans the office? Have a gin and tonic, darling: it’s so nice to have you home early.
(Image: James Cridland)