Thu, 11 Feb 2016
NEWBURY Magistrates' Court will close - and any day now - the government has announced.
Berkshire Magistrates Association says the closure, which is expected to take place between February and June 2016, will have "clear implications for the criminal justice system".
It added that it was "entirely against the interests of all court users and of the wider community of West Berkshire."
In a statement released today, the government says: "The Lord Chancellor has decided to close West Berkshire (Newbury) Magistrates’ Court and move the workload to Reading Magistrates’ Court.
It added: “HM Courts & Tribunals Service has to have due regard to ensure its estate is utilised to deliver justice efficiently and effectively while providing value for money to the public purse.”
The statement says that during the 2014 – 15 financial year the court was used to approximately 11% of its capacity.
But Newbury MP Richard Benyon previously claimed the court had been deliberately run down to warrant its closure.
Mr Benyon previously described the proposals as a “blow for local justice”.
In its consultation response, Berkshire Magistrates Association said: “Any future closure will result in victims of crime who live to the west of Newbury, not to mention council officials, solicitors and police officers, undertaking an 80 mile round trip to attend court in Reading, or a 120 mile round trip to attend court in Maidenhead.
“It is unreasonable to assume that all individuals will have access to a road vehicle.
“The duration of a journey into Reading is likely to be in advance of two hours. This proposal has the potential to deter many young offenders from attending court, which has clear implications for the criminal justice system.
“The closure would be entirely against the interests of all court users and of the wider community of West Berkshire."
Berkshire Magistrates Bench said: “Although there is agreement in principle to provision of some kind of video link based in the council offices at Newbury, the idea is not sufficiently well thought through and we are unconvinced that this solution can be implemented.”
The operating costs for Newbury Magistrates’ Court were reportedly £156,000 in 2014 -15.
Justice Minister Shailesh Vara said:“The decision to close a court is never taken lightly, but in the digital age I am confident we have measures in place to ensure access to justice is not diminished.”