ANOTHER round of closures to magistrates courts – Northallerton could be amongst the latest victims – makes a mockery of the long-held belief that ‘not only must justice be done, but it must also be seen to be done’.
Though the courts, like any public service, need to move with the times, the proposed centralisation of cases in York, Harrogate, Skipton or Middlesbrough appears to be a step too far.
Most importantly, it penalises victims – and also witnesses – who will have the inconvenience of travelling further to court. It denies the criminal justice system the expertise, and knowledge, of local magistrates who know the area – and the background to many of the perpetrators. And it’s less likely that cases will be covered by the local media, even though coverage is fundamental to the notion of open justice.
By running the justice system like a business, the Government will be guilty – as charged – of eroding confidence in local justice if it does not think again.