England’s first ‘all in one’ court and offender treatment centre is set for closure due to under-use, the justice minister announced today.
Helen Grant announced a six-week consultation on plans to shut North Liverpool Community Justice Centre and move its work and the principles of its problem-solving approach to Sefton Magistrates’ Court, less than two miles away.
The justice centre has operated from its Boundary Street site (pictured), a former primary school, since September 2005. It offers a ‘one-stop shop’ for offenders, bringing together a magistrates’, youth and Crown court with other criminal justice agencies and a range of problem-solving services, such as drug and alcohol services.
But in a written statement Grant said: ‘The local workload has fallen to the extent that the centre is now under-utilised.
‘In the light of current and future financial constraints it is increasingly difficult to justify the ongoing operation of the Boundary Street site.’
She stressed: ‘I am committed to ensuring that we continue to provide court and tribunal users with effective access to justice while seeking ways to do so at a lower cost and alongside our efforts to improve the efficiency of the justice system as a whole.’
Last year the Ministry of Justice said it would continue to fund the court for the next two years despite a report that said it had failed to cut reoffending rates in the area and that offenders were more likely to breach orders than in other parts of the country.
However, the report said there were signs of greater efficiency at the Liverpool court, with an average of 61 days between offence and conviction, compared with 73 days nationally. The number of hearings in trial cases was also lower, at 2.2 compared with a national average of 2.7.
Since 2010, 142 courts have been closed and there is speculation that the ministry will soon announce at least 80 further court closures, most of which are expected to be magistrates’ courts.
The consultation document is published on the MoJ website.