U.K. Justice Ministry Denies Court Privatization Plan

The U.K. Ministry of Justice said it won’t engage in the “wholesale privatization” of courts in England and Wales after The Times newspaper reported that Justice Secretary Chris Grayling favors the move.

Under plans being considered by ministers, court buildings and staff could be taken out of state control and run by private companies, the newspaper reported today. Funding would come from bigger fees from wealthy litigants and from the private sector, with hedge funds encouraged to invest, it said.

Grayling, who backs the measures, is expected to consider the plans within two weeks for action late this year, The Times said. To counter fears the independence of the courts might be eroded, they would be protected by a Royal Charter that would set out their rights and freedoms.

“We have always said we are determined to deliver a courts system that is more effective and efficient, and provides improved services for victims and witnesses,” the Justice Ministry in London said in an e-mailed statement today. “The proposals being considered are not the wholesale privatization of the courts service.”

Grayling is seeking savings in his department’s budget as Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne tries to find 11.5 billion pounds ($17 billion) of further cuts in central government spending.

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