St Helens’ magistrates and county courts face axe

St Helens Magistrates Court could close under controversial plans announced today
St Helens Magistrates Court could close under controversial plans announced today
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Dozens of jobs could be lost after it was announced St Helens Magistrates and County could be closed.

If the controversial proposals go ahead, it could be mean defendants and witnesses being forced to travel for up to an hour to reach the nearest court.

The plans were announced today by Courts Minister Shailesh Vara.

It is part of Government plans to reduce what they describe as “under-used and poor quality court and tribunal buildings.

Mr Vara also said the majority of those slated for closure are not used for at least two thirds of their available time, with one in three not used three quarters of the time.

A consultation will now take place until October.

Mr Vara said: “We are reforming the courts and tribunal service so that it meets the needs of modern day users.

“Access to justice is not just about attending court. As we bring in digital technology for better and more efficient access to justice, fewer people will need to physically be in a court.

“This means that we will need fewer buildings, and with many already underused and in poor quality, now is a good time to review the estate.”

Natalie Ceeney, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service Chief Executive, said: “Our estate is a significant asset. We currently have a number of surplus buildings and this consultation puts forward proposals on their future.

“As we modernise our service so that fewer people will need to attend a court in person, spending money on unsuitable or rarely used buildings is not good value for money for taxpayers.

“I encourage anyone with an interest to respond to the proposals.”

The courts being recommended for closure in the North West are:

Accrington County Court;

Accrington Magistrates’ Court;

Altrincham County Court;

Bolton County Court and Family Court;

Bury Magistrates’ Court and County Court;

Kendal Magistrates’ Court and County Court;

Macclesfield County Court;

Macclesfield Magistrates’ Court;

Oldham County Court;

Oldham Magistrates’ Court;

Ormskirk Magistrates’ Court and Family Court;

Runcorn (Halton) Magistrates’ Court;

St Helens Magistrates’ Court and County Court;

Stockport Magistrates’ Court and County Court;

Tameside County Court;

Trafford Magistrates’ Court and Altrincham County Court;

Warrington County Court; and

West Cumbria Magistrates’ and County Court.

A spokesman for Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service said: “The courts and tribunal service is being modernised to create a justice system that is simpler, swifter and more efficient – using modern technology to meet the needs of everyone who uses them now and in the future.

“To ensure access to justice is maintained, especially in rural areas, we are committed to providing alternative ways to access services. Alternatives will include using modern technology such as video conferencing to give evidence, and using other local civic and public buildings, such as town halls, for hearings, instead of underused and poorly maintained buildings.

“Attending court is rare for most people. It will still be the case that, after these changes, over 95 per cent of citizens will be able to reach their required court within an hour by car.

“This represents a change of just one percentage point for Crown and magistrates’ courts and two percentage points for County Courts. The proportion of citizens able to reach a tribunal within an hour by car will remain unchanged at 83 per cent.

“The national and regional consultation documents and the full list of sites recommended can be found here. The consultation will last for 12 weeks and will close on 8 October 2015.”