Justice secretary announces court closures

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Justice secretary Jack Straw has announced the closure of 20 ‘under-used’ magistrates' courts.

The following courts will close: Bourne; Bridport; Cheshunt; Cullompton; Dorking; Eastleigh; Gainsborough; Havant, Launceston; Louth; Mildenhall; Linehead; Sherborne; Sleaford; Stamford; Wantage; Wareham; Wells; Whitby and Widnes.

The majority, which have not heard cases for some time, will close with immediate effect. Decisions will be made locally about closing dates for the rest.

Straw added that he had yet to make a final decision on the proposed closure of Leigh County Court.

The announcement follows a consultation launched in October 2009.

Straw said he was confident that the closures will not have a ‘significant adverse impact on the provision of local justice’, as many of the courts listed were ‘significantly under-utilised’, lacked adequate facilities for victims and witnesses, and did not have adequate disabled access.

He said it would not provide good value for taxpayers’ money to bring the buildings up to the required standards.

‘The government is committed to ensuring that everyone has access to justice and that justice is provided locally,’ said Straw.‘Our plans ensure that communities have access to good quality local courts within a reasonable traveling distance. We have considered the suitability and proximity of nearby courts which can meet the needs of the community.’

Since 1997 the government, with this announcement, will have closed 171 courts, compared with 450 courts that were closed between 1979 to 1997.

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