Buxton Magistrates’ and County Court building is to be closed – a Ministry of Justice decision that has “deeply disappointed” Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Charles.
“I believe this decision to be ill-thought out and unfair to many vulnerable victims and witnesses who live in the High Peak,” the Commissioner said. “The closure means that they will now be expected to travel to Chesterfield Court, which is 25 miles from Buxton.
“I am deeply disappointed that it has come to this. Access to public transport in the rural parts of Derbyshire – including the High Peak – is limited and particularly difficult in the winter months. The impact of this on those seeking justice will clearly be considerable.”
The closure, expected in the next few months, involves moving the workload to Chesterfield Justice Centre and Stockport Magistrates’ and County Courts. Consideration will also be given to some family public law (care work) being moved to Manchester Civil Justice Centre.
Buxton Magistrates’ Court and County Court are among 86 courts and tribunals to close in England and Wales. The decision follows a consultation on the Ministry’s proposals to shut down 91. Of those 91, 64 sites will close as proposed in the consultation and a further 22 closures will take place but with changes to the original plans.
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, Minister for the Courts and Legal Aid Shailesh Vara told Parliament on Thursday (11 February) that changes to the court and tribunal estate were “vital if we are to modernise a system which everybody accepts is unwieldy, inefficient, slow, expensive to maintain and unduly bureaucratic.”
He said that access to justice, value for money and efficiency were considered regarding each proposal in the consultation. Consultation will take place with the Departmental Trade Union on staffing impacts in the coming months.
Commissioner Charles commented: “I am very concerned that closing our courts in Buxton will not only damage access to justice but also achieving justice. My fear is that the losers will be the most vulnerable victims such as those who have experienced domestic or sexual abuse. The need to travel long distances to court could be the tipping point that actually deters them from attending and leads them to withdraw from seeking justice.
“I understand that the courts need to be modernised, but not at the expense of fairness and justice for those who depend upon it.”
The Lord Chancellor decided to close the Buxton courts – which sit every day but not always for full days and not in both court rooms – after considering the 77 responses received in the consultation process. Of those responses, 71 were opposed to the closure, three were in support and three were neutral.
During the next four years, the Government plans to invest over £700m in updating the court and tribunal estate, installing modern IT systems and making the justice system more efficient and effective for modern users.
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Posted on Monday 15th February 2016