Suffolk’s only magistrates’ court ‘needs updating or replacing’, crime chief warns
- Credit: Archant
Suffolk’s last remaining magistrates’ court needs updating or replacing to make it fit for purpose, the county’s crime chief has warned.
Speaking at a meeting of the Suffolk Public Sector Leaders group on Friday, police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore said the closure of the magistrates' courts in Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft had put strain on the remaining court in Ipswich, although he ruled out reopening the closed buildings.
Mr Passmore said: "The main court in Ipswich is in need of improvement to make sure it is fit for purpose.
"If that means opening another court in Ipswich, then fine.
He added: "This is about trying to make sure we can look at value for money and access to justice.
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"It's never going to be the case of reopening courts such as the old one in Bury.
"We are concerned for access to justice, particularly for those who are vulnerable or don't have access to public transport.
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"No one should have an impediment to the criminal justice system."
Mr Passmore also expressed concern of hearing the Crown Prosecution Service was expecting a decrease in prosecution.
He said: "I was concerned regionally as the Crown Prosecution Service is expecting there to be 10% less prosecutions next year.
"I find that disturbing because there has been a slight increase in crime and an increase in the complexity of crime.
"I am concerned because the thought of prosecution should be a deterrent to criminals and bad behaviour. It comes across as a quota or target.
"As a PCC I think that's an erroneous position to take." He also expressed frustration in the ever-changing courts minister role, saying he has seen six in six years - making it difficult to prompt change to the justice system in the county.
Following the meeting, Mr Passmore added: "It is really concerning because access to justice is the cornerstone of living in the UK. We had a piece of research done by the university which showed that in some rural areas of Suffolk, particularly the west, cases had been compromised as witnesses couldn't turn up.
"I don't think this is acceptable at all. Justice had got to be done."
Nobody from the CPS was at the meeting to respond to Mr Passmore's comments.