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Newbury Magistrates' Court to close by June

Decision will have "clear implications"warn Magistrates Association

Dan Cooper

Dan Cooper


01635 886632


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.”





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Article comments

  • Trudie

    11/02/2016 - 19:07

    What is the sense of gradually taking all essential services to locations which make access for many people very difficult. I agree that it will act as a barrier to people coming to court and that justice will not be well served. Getting to Newbury is not easy for many people in West Berkshires rural areas and this will compound the problem.


  • Oldmoaner

    11/02/2016 - 19:07

    This is an engineered closure by intent, shifting work to Reading to justify the figures, when big Dave’s mum was a magistrate there were sitting five or six days a week in two or three court rooms. This is a licence for crime, to make witnesses and victims travel into the centre of Reading is insulting and degrading an insult to humanity. People will not want to see or hear anything as they will not want to travel all day to help. East Berkshire has three courts within a ten mile radius so close one of those and move their work to Reading and let Newbury look after rural crime.


  • rooter37

    11/02/2016 - 14:02

    An 80 mile round trip from Newbury to Reading? Where are they going via? Even via Basingstoke would still only be a 66 mile round trip... Think some of the savings should be used to buy the council officials a map or a sat-nav. Also, whats wrong with the train? All travel expenses will be re-reimbursed for officials, so whats the problem here? It makes more financial sense to centralize the service, simple.


    • Mairi

      11/02/2016 - 17:05

      What about Lambourn and similar villages to Reading? An almost impossible journey by public transport.