The Ministry of Justice undertook a consultation process discussing the future of courts in England and Wales; they have concluded from this consultation that 86 courts and tribunals are to close. The Justice Minister claimed that on average, the courts that are due to close are only used for an equivalent of less than two days a week; leading the government to brand them ‘unused’.
The purpose of the closures is to reduce the £500m annual cost of courts in England and Wales, in order to focus on modernisation that will improve the efficiency of the currently outdated and slow system and benefit all users of the courts.
Despite reassurance from the MoJ, claiming that 97% of users will still be able to access a court within an hour’s drive, many groups have voiced their concerns regarding the proposed cuts. The Law Society has published an article on their website entitled ‘court closures will deepen inequalities in the justice system’. They discuss their main concerns as being the impact on court users stating, ‘No matter who you are, no matter where you live, everyone in England and Wales must be able to access legal advice and the justice system.’
Resolution, an organisation of 6,500 family lawyers and other professionals have criticised the proposals and also have concerns about access to justice, similar to that of the Law Society. They claim “Those affected the most by these closures will be vulnerable people such as victims of domestic abuse, young people and those who rely on public transport to get around.”
The courts that have been names as closing include Reigate County Court and Family Court, St Albans County Court and Woolwich Magistrates’ Court. 5 courts considered in the consultation will not be closing and a further 22 will be closed but with proposed changes including alternative venues such as civic centre’s being used. The closures will take place between now and September 2017, for a full list of the schedule please read the attached file in PDF format.