A SHAKE-UP of magistrates’ courts in County Durham which has been criticised for “setting people up to fail” has come into force.

As previously reported by The Northern Echo, the changes, which came into effect yesterday (Monday, March 31), will see all road traffic cases for the county heard at Darlington Magistrates’ Court.

It will now also deal with adult trials and private prosecutions.

Because the court does not have cell facilities, it will no longer hear first hearings in adult crime cases – these will instead be dealt with at Newton Aycliffe.

Peterlee Magistrates' Court will now deal with general crime and private prosecutions, as well as remand court every day.

It will also be the domestic violence court for the county.

Consett Magistrates' Court will now reduce to two days a week to deal with adult custody cases, adult crime cases and adult trials.

Youth court will be held at Newton Aycliffe every Monday.

Staff at the courts said the new arrangements were making it difficult for people to attend court, and raised concerns that more people will not turn up for hearings.

A Government spokesman said: "Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service, in conjunction with the judiciary, routinely reviews local listing arrangements, taking into account changes in workload in order to make the best use of resources and facilities for users and taxpayers alike."