MP voices court closure fears

THE number of magistrates courts in west Suffolk could be slashed to just one when a legal committee is abolished, it has been warned.Last week plans to scrap the Suffolk Magistrates' Courts Committee (SMCC) as part of an overhaul of the local justice system were blasted by West Suffolk MP Richard Spring.

THE number of magistrates courts in west Suffolk could be slashed to just one when a legal committee is abolished, it has been warned.

Last week plans to scrap the Suffolk Magistrates' Courts Committee (SMCC) as part of an overhaul of the local justice system were blasted by West Suffolk MP Richard Spring.

But now Mr Spring has warned the decision to eliminate the SMCC could spell disaster for at least one courtroom, with the future of another also looking uncertain.

The SMCC, which is responsible for the administration of local courts, will be replaced by the new Court Service as part of the Department of Constitutional Affairs.


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It will mean control of Suffolk's legal system will be taken out of the hands of local authorities and passed to central offices in London.

Last night Mr Spring said he was concerned the courtroom in Mildenhall – which currently opens four days a week – would close when the SMCC is scrapped on April 1.

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"There will be absolutely no control at local level and I think this will be hugely damaging to the local community," he said.

"Mildenhall is a small court and I think there is a real threat that it will be closed down.

"The benefit of having magistrates sitting in these smaller courts is that they normally live locally and have their finger on the pulse.

"They know the people who come before them and are much better equipped to deal with them, but this local knowledge will be lost if and when the court is abolished."

Mr Spring also said he is not ruling out the possibility of Sudbury's court closing its doors.

"It is a larger court and therefore more sustainable, but who knows what will happen when the control is centralised," he said.

Six years ago, courtrooms in Haverhill and Newmarket were closed, leaving just three in West Suffolk.

If Mildenhall and Sudbury courts were shut, only the one in Bury St Edmunds would remain.

"Communities already feel alienated, and this will make the problem even worse," Mr Spring said.

John Rodley, chief executive of the SMCC, said: "Nothing is forever, but there are certainly no plans at this time to abolish the courts in either Mildenhall or Sudbury.

"Things like that depend on so many factors, but the SMCC believes we have got the estate that we need in Suffolk and that fact has been reflected in the forward plan that has been passed to the new organisation."

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