Not only have one third of Yorkshire’s courts closed since 2010 but replacement video links, intended to spare witnesses and others from travelling unreasonable distances to attend proceedings, continue to be plagued by technological failures highlighted by Mark Burns-Williamson, one of this county’s crime commissioners.
This is unacceptable and, as The Yorkshire Post has previously argued, there needs to be a complete moratorium on court closures until there’s been a reappraisal of the Ministry of Justice’s approach and the use of video technology thoroughly tested to ensure its effectiveness, particularly in those rural areas where inadequate broadband access remains a recurring issue.
And, if Justice Secretary David Gauke does not recognise this, perhaps he’ll listen to the recently retired judge who wrote to The Yorkshire Post to praise this newspaper’s continuing coverage of court cases and their importance. “It is, in my view, important to keep the general public aware that the courts are there and daily doing their job in acquitting the innocent, convicting the guilty and imposing appropriate sentences on those guilty of crime,” they wrote.
At a time when many local newspapers, whose faithful reports of cases did act as a deterrent because of the shame that the behaviour of criminals brought upon their families, struggle to fulfil this duty because proceedings are undertaken at distant locations, Mr Gauke should not only be maintaining the network of courts but ensuring that, like Parliament, there’s an electronic transcript for interested parties – including victims – so justice is not only done, but seen to be done, and not compromised by unjustifiable cuts.