Court closures would be a ‘backward step’

GOVERNMENT proposals to axe courts in two towns were last night branded a “backward step” by one of the county’s magistrates.

The magistrates’ courts in Sudbury and Thetford are among dozens earmarked for closure by the recently-formed coalition Government as part of a major cost-cutting drive.

Consultation over the proposed closures is now under way.

Richard Kemp, a magistrate and councillor for Long Melford, last night said: “I think the closure of Sudbury Court would be a huge backward step in relation to the very small savings that would be accrued.

“I think it is totally alien to the spirit of local justice, contrary to the concept of limiting travel both in green terms and cost and completely inconvenient to the taxpayers and the users of this court.” He called on justice chiefs to get rid of the “layers of unnecessary bureaucracy that have attached to the courts system” rather than axeing courthouses.

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The move to close Sudbury and Thetford courts, if approved, would leave just Bury St Edmunds courthouse in west Suffolk.

In recent years, courts including Haverhill, Newmarket and Mildenhall have all been closed.

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Explaining the proposals to cut the number of courts, the Government said it would save �15.3million a year and a further �21.5m in maintenance bills.

Courts minister Jonathan Djanogly said: “When public finances are under pressure, it is vital to eliminate waste and reduce costs. The Government is committed to supporting local justice, enabling justice to be done and seen to be done in our communities.

“Magistrates hear the majority of criminal cases and this voluntary contribution will continue to be strongly supported by the Government as the bedrock of our justice system.

“The arrangements we have are historical and now need to be re-assessed to ask whether they properly meet the needs of communities as they are today – we increasingly use the internet and email to communicate and access services and we travel further to work, for leisure and to do our weekly shop.

“We now have the opportunity to think afresh about how we can create a more modern fit-for-purpose justice system in line with the way we live our lives today.”

The closing date for consultation responses is September 15.

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