New court could damage 'local justice'

SUFFOLK'S local justice system could be destroyed if a new crown court complex brings the demise of yet more magistrates' court, campaigners have warned.

SUFFOLK'S local justice system could be destroyed if a new crown court complex brings the demise of yet more magistrates' court, campaigners have warned.

Fears are growing for the future of local magistrates courts in Sudbury and Mildenhall, after it emerged that the crown court in Bury St Edmunds will only be used on an “ad-hoc” or part time basis from March.

It is believed the court could close altogether when a new multi-million pound complex opens in Ipswich later this year, paving the way for a centralised west Suffolk magistrates courts, which is in the same building as the two St Edmundsbury magistrates courts.

West Suffolk MP Richard Spring said he is increasingly concerned for the future of local justice and fears the remaining small town courts in Suffolk are doomed when the new crown court building opens.


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He said that move would spell the end for the smaller courts in Sudbury and Mildenhall and claimed it would put “local justice for local people” in serious jeopardy.

Magistrates' courts in Haverhill and Newmarket closed in 1999 and their workload is now covered at Sudbury and Mildenhall.

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Mr Spring said: “I am suspicious that crown court services in west Suffolk are being phased out to centralise everything to the new complex at Ipswich.

“This will destroy the local justice system for the sake of convenience of court officials. The suggestion that the crown court in Bury St Edmunds will only be used on an ad-hoc basis is very disturbing and most unwelcome.”

Ipswich's new multi-million pound court complex on the corner of West End Road and Russell Road is due to open by the end of the year. It will hear the majority of the serious crime cases referred by the Crown Prosecution Service.

The four-storey building will include five court rooms, each with direct access to the cells, television link facilities and disabled access.

It is being funded by private finance as part of a double package for crown court services in Ipswich and Cambridge, costing a total of £40m, with the largest slice being spent on the Suffolk complex.

Mr Spring added: “Court officials should be looking at ways to increase service in West Suffolk for the convenience of the people in the area.

“People from Haverhill and Newmarket already have to travel to Sudbury and Mildenhall for court services and the situation could get much worse.

“If the crown court services are taken away from Bury I am sure the building would be used to combine the work of the west Suffolk magistrates which would almost certainly close the smaller courts at Sudbury and Mildenhall.

“It looks to be a blatant case of salami slicing, chopping away at local justice, which is not good for local people.”

Richard Rice, list officer at Ipswich Crown Court said: “No official decision has been made on Bury St Edmunds Crown Court yet, but it will still sit as and when required.

“The position as we understand it will be that it will be used on an ad-hoc basis.”

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