On the 16th of October 2019, the chief executive of HM Courts and Tribunals Service informed the Public Accounts Committee that 40% of courts are still being used for less than half their total available time. She alleges that more than two-thirds are situated within five miles of another court.
In September the Ministry of Justice revealed that they are planning on closing around 77 court and tribunal buildings over the next 7 years. The idea is that the money that will be saved will go towards modernising the remaining courts. HMCTS has already closed 127 sites in England and Wales since 2015. Between 2010 and 2015 around 140 buildings were also shut.
When these Courts were closed inaccurate information was used to assess the impact on Court users. Ms Acland-Hood suggests that this time they will look at the real travel distances for the individuals who use the courts.
Acland-Hood stated that access to justice remains the priority when considering the closure of courts although given the significant delays already being experienced by Court users it is questionable whether this can be achieved if further closures are made.
HMCTS were questioned on how the Magistrates and Crown courts were to manage if the government’s 20,000 extra police officers plan was to go ahead as this would result in more cases coming through the system. It was acknowledged that if there was a significant increase in cases there would be a problem.
Access to justice is already problematic. Further closures can only make this situation worse. SULAC offers free legal advice to members of the public in Stoke and Staffordshire. Please call 01782 294800 for an appointment.