Shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter has warned the government that a further round of court closures would be ‘reckless and chaotic’.
Speculation is growing that the Ministry of Justice will soon announce at least 80 further court closures – mainly magistrates’ courts – to add to the 142 that have been culled since 2010.
Last week it was confirmed that justice secretary Chris Grayling has agreed a further £680m budget cut for 2015/16 with chancellor George Osborne, on top of around £2bn savings made by 2015.
Slaughter warned any widespread programme of court closures would mean ‘we will no longer have a local court system in this country’.
He said: ‘The dislocation between justice and local communities will not only undermine confidence in our courts, but will cause many more cases to collapse as defendants and witnesses fail to attend, and magistrates are increasingly reluctant to serve at remote locations.’
Last week Grayling was heavily criticised after it emerged he is considering privatising the court system.
Grayling denied he planned a ‘wholesale privatisation’ of the courts service after reports emerged that hedge funds and other investors may be encouraged to bid for contracts with the prospect of generous returns.
A spokesman for the Law Society said the government should focus on improving the way courts are run inside the public sector rather than add to the profits of private operators.