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Government yet to make decision over Harlow magistrates court

Politics / Wed 26th Jul 2017 at 12:12pm

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THE government has still not decided when to close five of the 86 courts earmarked for closure 18 months ago.

An update on potential implementation dates, published this week, reveals the future is unclear for Birmingham Youth Court, Chichester Combined Court, Colchester County Court, Harlow Magistrates’ Court and Chippenham Magistrates’ Court, Civil and Family Court.

The Ministry of Justice announced in February 2016 that 86 of the 91 courts it had consulted on would close.

Most have now shut, but the delays over the remaining five have raised hopes with some campaigners that a reprieve could still be possible.

Family solicitor Edward Cooke, a critic of the decision to close Chichester Combined Court, explained the delay in its case was caused by a threat of judicial review brought by family law group Resolution West Sussex.

Since then, campaigners have put forward a fresh proposal for a justice centre in Chichester and they now await the government’s response. The proposal suggests keeping all non-criminal work, including housing, family and other civil cases, within the city.

Cooke added: ‘In the meantime the Chichester County Court (which was due to close earlier this year) still remains very much open for business, with cases listed for several months ahead. We intend to fight on until an appropriate alternative local justice provision is put in place, as the MOJ always promised it would be.’

Lawyers from the city met with the MoJ in March, where officials again stated the intention to keep existing facilities open until an alternative is found.

Cooke has also met local MP Gillian Keegan and the leader of Chichester District Council to get endorsement for the new proposals.

‘Access to justice is particularly vital for vulnerable people and those without access to a car,’ he added. ‘People facing repossession, victims of domestic abuse or those going through relationship breakdown will find it extremely difficult to attend courts in other towns, be they Worthing or Brighton.’

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