Cuts could see Magistrates courts close

MAGISTRATES courts in rural areas could be forced to close following an announcement by the Ministry of Justice in which many were branded “under-used and inadequate”.

MAGISTRATES courts in rural areas could be forced to close following an announcement by the Ministry of Justice in which many were branded “under-used and inadequate”.

Local courts in Thetford and Swaffham, as well as those in Cromer, Wisbech, Lowestoft and Ely could be affected as police fight to protect the frontline in the face of swinging cuts.

Magistrates courts across East Anglia were assessing the impact of potential court closures after the Ministry of Justice announced a consultation on the closure of 103 courts nationwide. These are mostly in rural areas and ministers say they “do not fit the needs of modern communities”.

If the move goes ahead, it could cut court running costs by �15.3m per year along with a saving of �21.5m on maintenance costs.


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Magistrates in Norfolk will meet next month to discuss the implications. Paul Allen, chairman of Norwich magistrates, said: “It will certainly have a knock-on effect on the courts that remain and we would need to give a lot of thought to the increased workload and how that may delay the timeliness of trials.

“It is preferable for justice to be delivered locally and there is an argument that somewhere like Cromer is within travelling distance of Norwich, but you have to be mindful of the problems with Norfolk's transport network and the impact this would have on defendants.”

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Magistrates have already warned the cuts could increase pressure on the remaining courts and not be in the interests of delivering justice at a local level.

MP for South West Norfolk, Elizabeth Truss, said: “Given the disastrous state in which the previous Government left public finances, I understand that savings have to be made.

“I also believe it is important that justice is done and seen to be done as locally as possible. The impact of travel costs do need to be taken into account. I will be meeting with the Minister Jonathan Djanogly as well as local magistrates and interested parties to seek a solution that maintains local justice in South West Norfolk whilst reducing costs.”

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