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Wednesday, 03 April 2019 15:43

Magistrates court closures

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Half of magistrates courts in England and Wales closed since 2010

Defendants, witnesses, police, lawyers and JPs left having to travel huge distances to court

More than half of all magistrates courts in England and Wales have closed since 2010, forcing defendants, witnesses, police, lawyers and justices of the peace to travel sometimes more than 50 miles to access local justice.

The full scale of the closures is revealed in data published by the Guardian and the House of Commons library. Since the coalition government came to power in 2010, 162 of the 323 magistrates courts in England and Wales have shut – a loss of 50.2% of the estate. The latest was Maidenhead magistrates court in the prime minister’s constituency. Most have been sold.

The controversial Ministry of Justice (MOJ) efficiency exercise is directly tied to the need to generate funds for a £1.2bn digital modernisation programme, which came under the spotlight following a meltdown of court computer systems this week.

As large gaps open up in the courts network in Wales, East Anglia and the North of England, HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has confirmed it is considering whether to pay for taxis to ferry defendants and witnesses from the most remote parts of the country to hearings.

The distance model developed by HMCTS requires that 95% of the population should be able to travel to court from their homes by public transport leaving at 7.30am and arriving by 9.30am. It also specifies that 98% of the population should be able to reach court by 10.30am, which implies a three-hour journey to court and a further three hours back – a total of six hours travelling on a court attendance day.

For full article please click https://www.theguardian.com/law/2019/jan/27/half-of-magistrates-courts-in-england-and-wales-closed-since-tories-elected

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