Hope is expressed over court’s future

A MAGISTRATE has said there is a “glimmer of hope” a Suffolk court may be saved following comments by one of the country’s most senior judges.

Sudbury and Thetford Magistrates’ Courts are among dozens earmarked for closure by the new coalition Government as part of a major cost-cutting drive.

In an 89-page response to consultation on the provision of court services, Lord Justice Goldring, the Senior Presiding Judge for England and Wales, said he was unable to back either retention or closure of these courts on the information available to him.

Referring to the Sudbury court, West Suffolk magistrate Richard Kemp, also a councillor for Long Melford, said: “I think there’s a glimmer of hope that common sense may prevail through all this talk of cutbacks and all the rest of it.

“At the end of the day politicians have a duty of concern and care to local residents and they have a duty to protect facilities in growing areas such as Sudbury.”

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Sudbury and Thetford Magistrates’ Courts fell under category c) in the response by Lord Justice Goldring, which means further detail is needed before a decision can be made.

He said: “In all those cases there are rational arguments against closure which require further exploration before decisions are taken. This will be a matter for the Lord Chancellor.”

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Lord Justice Goldring said it was “questionable” whether Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ Court - which is not facing closure - could absorb the extra workload of both Thetford to the north and Sudbury to the south.

“Assurances will be needed in that regard before closure should proceed,” he said.

He added how if work moved from Thetford to Norwich travel times would be too great and the closure of that court should be opposed.

He also said travel times were “problematic” from Sudbury to Bury if relying on public transport.

But he added how although resistant to closure “most magistrates in the area are resigned to the fact that, in the current climate, Sudbury may have to close”.

Referring to Sudbury Magistrates’ Court, Mr Kemp, a magistrate since 1977 and a member of the Suffolk Magistrates’ Association, said closure would be “ludicrous” as the blueprint for the area was immense residential expansion, adding how closure went against the idea of localism.

Peter Sanderson, a representative of the West Suffolk branch of the Suffolk Magistrates’ Association, said the general view of magistrates was the closure of Sudbury would be likely to happen, which they would be “sorry to see”.

“But we live in the real world and are aware of what the current situation is,” he said.

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