Yorkshire court closures confirmed

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THE CLOSURE of court buildings across Yorkshire will go ahead despite complaints it will make it harder for people to access justice.

Justice Minister Shailesh Vara confirmed the courts in Halifax, Rotherham, Wakefield and Scunthorpe would be among 86 nationally to be closed and the buildings sold off.

The Government argues that huge swathes of the court estate are underused and new technology means fewer court buildings are needed.

Plans to close courts were first announced last year and after a consultation five of the originally 91 will be reprieved but all the proposed closures in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire will go ahead.

In a statement Mr Vara said: “On average, the 86 courts we are closing are used for just over a third of their available hearing time. That is equivalent to less than two days a week.

“It will still be the case that after these closures, over 97 per cent of citizens will be able to reach their required court within an hour by car.

“This represents a change of just 1 percentage points for both criminal and County Courts. The proportion able to reach a tribunal within an hour by car will remain unchanged at 83 per cent.”

In a joint statement, Rotherham MPs John Heeley, Kevin Barron and Sarah Champion said: “We managed to fight off similar plans four years ago, so it was frustrating and disappointing to see the proposals come back last year.

“The government have been determined to press ahead with their plans, ignoring strong concerns raised by us and local magistrates.

“Closing the Rotherham court is deeply wrong and a huge blow to the delivery of justice locally.

“The court is one of the most visible symbols of justice in our town and removing it could further undermine confidence in the justice system, which has already been badly shaken in recent years.”

Calderdale Council leader Tim Swift said: “We spoke out strongly when this closure was proposed, and the loss of these services is very concerning. The closures will have a real impact on local communities and also on Council services.

“Having local justice is a vital part of our legal system, and cases should be tried within the community where the offence was committed.

“When cases go to court, it can obviously be a very stressful time for witnesses or family members affected by crime. It should be as easy as possible for them to attend, and this announcement will mean they will soon have to make expensive and time consuming journeys to Bradford.

”The closures will have implications for our staff, and also for local legal firms, all of whom now face additional time and expense.

“This is a poor decision which will impact local people and we believe will not achieve the scale of savings that the Government is claiming.”