Thu, 16 Jul 2015
NEWBURY magistrates' court is facing closure.
It is one of the 91 courts and tribunals in England and Wales which the government have described as “underused” and are recommending for closure.
Newbury MP Richard Benyon has called the proposals a “blow for local justice”.
It is not the first time the future of the court has been in doubt – it was previously threatened with closure in 2010 saved from the axe after a determined campaign.
The plans were announced in a statement from courts minister Shailesh Vara yesterday.
In the statement, he said that aim was to reduce surplus capacity.
He added: “We can only provide better access to justice if we take difficult decisions to reduce the cost of our estate and reinvest the savings.
"As the Secretary of State told Parliament on 23 June, this means “a significant number of additional courts will have to close.
"Last year over a third of all courts and tribunals were empty for more than fifty per cent of their available hearing time.”
Mr Vara added that more than 95 per cent of citizens will be able to reach their required court within an hour by car.
He said that to ensure "justice is maintained" in rural locations, it would be providing alternative ways for users to access our services, which could see public buildings, such as town halls, used for hearings instead of "underused, poorly-maintained
Mr Benyon said: “I believe that the court service has run down the use of Newbury Court to claim that the level of usage warrants its closure.
"Decades ago, justice was delivered in Lambourn, Hungerford and Newbury, now victims face travelling to Reading to give evidence.
“I have already held discussions with the chief executive of West Berkshire Council to see if their video link could be used by the court service and I will be making representations to the consultation to keep the court open”.
A total of 57 magistrates' courts, 19 county courts, two crown courts, four tribunal hearing centres and nine combined courts are under threat as part of the proposals.
A 12 week consultation will take place from today and runs until October 8.
Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service operates 460 courts and tribunal hearing centres across England and Wales, which reportedly costs the taxpayer half a billion pounds a year.