THE public service counter at Oxford Crown and County Court has been shut off to visitors under a new pilot scheme.

The counter will remain shut until March 29 next year.

Visitors will only be able to speak to staff for urgent matters or by appointment.

HM Courts & Tribunals spokesman James Rea said: “County court counters will not process routine work if a face-to-face service is unnecessary.

“Reliable alternative service channels, such as online, telephone and email, are already available to deal with the majority of work conducted at public counters. “Face-to-face services will remain for those who genuinely require it and cannot access alternative service channels.”

He added: “Efficiency savings realised as a result of this initiative will be diverted back into the frontline to improve the overall service we provide.”

Meanwhile, Oxford Magistrates’ Court is one 14 courts nationwide to trial more flexible hours.

The court will have the option of hearing cases for longer than between the current hours of 10am to 4pm, as of October 25.

It is part of a Government scheme to make courts more flexible to better accommodate victims and witnesses.

Other courts will also be sitting outside traditional hours during the week, sitting at weekends and increasing the use of video-link technology.

Justice Minister Damian Green said: “This is one part of our drive to create a swifter, surer and more flexible justice system for all.”