THE battle for the future of Newbury courthouse has entered its final phase, with the consultation due to close on October 8.
Newbury MP Richard Benyon was this week due to meet fellow Conservative Shailesh Vara, the Minister for Courts and Legal Aid, to oppose the closure plans.
He said: “I will maintain that our court has been purposely run down by the Courts Service with this very aim in mind. I am deeply troubled that the concept of local justice is being lost.
“It’s vital that the Ministry of Justice is made aware of the detrimental impact this potential closure will have on our local community and I would urge all interested parties to make their feelings known to this consultation.”
Mr Benyon said he had also met with representatives from the national Law Society, who, he said, also opposed the national closure plans.
The court was previously threatened with closure in 2010 and only saved by a determined campaign.
But since then it has been reduced to ‘satellite’ status, with weekly opening times slashed from five days to one; its security service removed and custody cases moved elsewhere.
Even routine West Berkshire cases have been increasingly switched to Reading, Slough and Maidenhead.
Then came the new closure plans, announced by Mr Vara on July 15.
He said Newbury courthouse, in Mill Lane, was among 57 “underused, poorly maintained” magistrates’ courts, 19 county courts, two crown courts, four tribunal centres and nine combined courts under threat.
Thames Valley’s police and crime commissioner Anthony Stansfeld is also fighting the closure plans.
He said this week: “As well as participating in the formal consultation, I will be writing a personal letter to Justice Secretary Michael Gove. In it I will be challenging the assertion that local justice can all be administered via CCTV. This is going to lead to a huge amount of extra police work. It’s simply not going to work.
“In addition this will lead to magistrates resigning because they don’t want to travel such long distances from their own area.”
He added: “I will suggest that the whole thing needs a drastic re-think.”