The Ministry of Justice and HM Courts and Tribunals Service have published consultations on proposals to close Banbury, Maidenhead, Cambridge, Northallerton, Fleetwood and Chorley Magistrates’ Courts, as well as Banbury County Court, Wandsworth County Court and Blackfriars Crown Court.
They have also published 'Fit for the future: Transforming the court and tribunal estate', a consultation on their approach to making future decisions on the court and tribunal estate.
The consultation papers are available here.
Commenting on the proposed court closures, John Bache JP, Chairman of the Magistrates Association, said:
"All those of us working in the justice system have a responsibility to ensure that resources are used effectively and nobody wants to prevent the much-needed modernisation of the court system. If court buildings are underused or outdated then we should always consider whether they are still required.
"However justice should, wherever possible, be administered locally and a significant programme of court closures in recent years has meant that many courts are already quite remote from the communities that they serve. Further court closures risk exacerbating this situation. Video technology has a role to play but it is important that courts remain genuinely accessible to victims, witnesses and defendants who may want to attend in person, as well as to magistrates themselves, who cannot be expected to travel unreasonable distances to court on a regular basis.
"We recognise that there may be a need to make further savings in the courts budget and money should not be wasted on keeping unneeded court buildings open. We need to ensure, however, that the court reform programme is compatible with running fair, effective courts delivering accessible, visible justice that commands the confidence of local communities. The Ministry of Justice should bear these principles in mind when making final decisions on these proposed court closures."