The Law Society’s response to the government’s proposals for court closures is an excellent, thorough and detailed piece of work, which reflects great credit on the Society, and those who so assiduously argued the case for each court.
It remains to be seen how many courts will, in fact, be spared from the chop.
What so sadly emerges from an analysis of the arguments for closure is that the pecking order in the law now is (arguably): Ministry of Justice first; courts administration second; Legal Aid Agency third; lawyers fourth; and the public nowhere.
In the final analysis, why are the courts operating at all if it is not to serve the public at large?
The ministry has tried to argue that the increase in litigants in person is not extending court time and costs – an argument strongly refuted by district judges at the coal face.
The overwhelming majority of court users are now drawn from the poor; that is, those on benefits or low-paid working families.
Again and again, the argument used for closure of local courts is to save money, with little or no regard for the increased costs and difficulty of travel for court users.
Many of them will be unable to afford the fares or work out the complicated timetables for travel to court – and particularly home again.
If the intention, therefore, is to discourage the majority of litigants from using the courts at all, this is the perfect formula.
Money will indeed be saved, because access to justice will be out of the window. So roll on my brave new world, where all cases will be dealt with on Skype between the judge and litigants at arms length.
I fear, however, that before this can become a reality by selling off the court buildings, it will be far too late.
John Greenwood, Chippenham, Wiltshire