A leading barrister has called for a halt to magistrates’ court closures, saying economies would be better made by returning the courts to magistrates’ control. In a pamphlet, The Cost to Justice, published by think tank Politeia, Stanley Brodie QC said the programme to cut 142 courts undermines the government’s Big Society agenda and commitment to localism. He told a meeting that the Ministry of Justice could save £1.5bn by reverting to the situation before 2005, when magistrates’ courts were placed under central government control. ‘The magistrates of England and Wales, and their courts system, until 2005, were an outstanding example of the Big Society in action,’ he said. Brodie described the ‘attack on the magistrates’ as ‘part of a more sinister trend in which government and Whitehall have been undermining the independence of the judges’. John Thornhill, chair of the Magistrates Association, told the meeting that the legal system could be made more efficient without shutting courts. The funding gap could be filled by enforcing payment of an estimated £1.3bn owed in fines.