Court closures open way to less stressful justice, says charity

Topics: Civil justice,Legal aid and access to justice,Courts business,Government & politics

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Charity Citizens Advice has said technology can fill the gaps left by vacated court buildings after the government confirmed a raft of closures. 

The Ministry of Justice yesterday confirmed that 86 courts and tribunals across England and Wales will shut within two years.

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The department said the closures will save £27m a year in operating costs and bring in £39m from the sale of freehold buildings.

An MoJ spokeswoman has confirmed that a consultation will take place with court staff, with the aim of ‘redeploying as many as possible’, although redundancies are expected.

Justice minister Shailesh Vara said the remaining court estate will be ‘user-focused and efficient’ and that money will now be invested in modern technology to offer online pleas, claims and evidence systems and video conferencing.

Many interested parties have come forward to condemn the closures, but some have tried to assuage fears about access to justice after the closures have been made.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said technology has the potential to preserve access to justice when courts close.

‘The government’s aim to help more people secure justice without attending court in person is right and for this to be achieved the implementation must match,’ said Guy. 



‘The stress and difficulty of giving evidence or getting redress through the justice system can be heightened by the pressures of attending court in person.  



‘While court closures could mean some people have to travel longer distances, technology such as video links could help tackle this issue. And where this can be done safely it is also sensible to explore how other community locations can be used by people seeking justice.’

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, tweeted that court closures ‘provide an opportunity to do things differently’ and change the criminal justice system.

The ministry said talks have begun with local authorities and other stakeholders to identify different ways of delivering services. Alternative venues for hearings could include civil buildings, universities and community centres.

The department added: ‘Work is underway to establish pilots to test hearing cases in non-court buildings.

‘We will make sure that the security of the judiciary, staff and users is assessed as part of this process and the provision of appropriate ICT facilities will also be carefully considered and evaluated.’

Readers' comments (17)

  • The title of the article is a farce. What the hell has attending court and court closures got to do with each other much less easing the stress of justice.

    Those of us who have an ounce of common sense will KNOW you will experience STRESS pertaining to a court action you are involved or concerned with, whether you are attending court in person or being expected to participate in a matter by any other
    means. What a spurious piece.

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  • Right. There is more chance of being bitten on the a*se by a cabbage.

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  • well parliament takes far more notice of CAB than it does of us - CAB probably suggested the closures in the first place
    Calling yourself "not for profit" is the route to all things - do we never learn?

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  • Here here to all

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  • Deborah Daniels I hardly believe the Citizens Advice suggested the closures. The comment 'well parliament takes far more notice of CAB than it does us' sounds a little like throwing your dummy out of the pram for not receiving the attention your after. There is a reason for need for 'not for profit'.

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  • I work for a local Citizens Advice and wrote our response to the consultation. While I cannot speak for any other local Citizens Advice or the national Citizens Advice organisation I can assure Deborah Daniels and anyone else that we made our opposition to the closure of our local County Court very clear indeed. Although the consultation response has taken on board a few of the points we made it ignored most. We are very disappointed that the closure is to go ahead as planned.

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  • Francovich anyone?

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  • Much less stressful - a trader bilks you out of a couple of thousand and the process is all done on line (no reduction in court fees though). At the end you lose because the trader raised an argument you didn't really understand and the judge never saw how confused you were. No you are a couple of thousand plus the extortionate court fees down. Yes, a lot less stressful.

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  • This Government and previous ones have no idea what Justice looks like and instead concentrate on the cost of courts, staff, cps, police, probation etc etc and they do not care that what they are creating will restrict access to Justice.
    The Law Society and the Representative Associations and others eg CAB have failed to co-ordinate any kind of proper or effective opposition to Government policy.
    Can we agree what Justice should look like and then explain it in clear and repeated detail to the Government and the media.

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  • This is, unfortunately, the price which has to be paid to try to reduce the debt and deficit left by New Labour. I cannot imagine anyone being unwise enough to vote for them ever again.

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