‘Cart before horse approach’ to strategy over court closures challenged by Law Society
The number of magistrates’ and county courts facing closure is set to increase after the government unveiled a fresh round of proposed closures as part of its ongoing modernisation programme.
Law Society of England and Wales president Joe Egan said:
“Eight courts, including magistrates’ and county courts, are under threat. At the same time, the court service (HMCTS) has unveiled plans for a principled strategy for making decisions on the court estate and tribunals.
“It seems unorthodox at best that HMCTS are looking at eight court closures while at the same time consulting on the principles.
“The government is spending a great deal of public money making the court estate fit for 21st century justice, but the absence of a strategy is all too evident.
“We know from experience that once a court has been identified for closure, it is difficult to change this decision. HMCTS should not be making any final decision on individual courts before agreeing the principles it is working to develop.”
Joe Egan added: “We support government efforts to improve court efficiency through better use of technology. However, the modernisation process will take time.
“Every time a court is closed further pressure is placed on those courts, personnel and judiciary that remain.
“Any individual court closure is a matter of local concern and ten weeks’ notice for a consultation is insufficient for practitioners and the local communities affected to respond.”
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