Cleveland Police boss adds backing to Hartlepool court battle

Hartlepool Law Courts, incorporating Hartlepool Magistrates' Court.

Hartlepool Law Courts, incorporating Hartlepool Magistrates' Court.

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The man in charge of overseeing crime fighting efforts in Hartlepool has said he is “totally opposed” to the closure of its law courts.

Barry Coppinger, police and crime commissioner for Cleveland, has backed efforts to fight the proposals to close it and 90 other courts and tribunals across England and Wales.

Barry Coppinger, Cleveland's Police and Crime Commissioner.

Barry Coppinger, Cleveland's Police and Crime Commissioner.

The consultation on Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court and County Court, in Victoria Road, does not close until Thursday, October 8, but members of the borough’s council have already expressed concern a decision has already been made by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) over its future.

The discussions centre on addressing court buildings that are not fully used, with the suggestion video and telephone conferences can be used to make savings.

Hartlepool’s complex was said to have used 47 per cent of its total capacity in 2014-15, with cases to be dealt with by Teesside Magistrates’ and County Court in Middlesbrough.

Objectors say the travelling distance and costs to defendants, victims, witnesses and their families are the reasons why the closure should not go ahead.

At a meeting of the Safer Hartlepool Partnership, which brings together councillors, leading council officers, police, housing officials and community and volunteer representatives, Mr Coppinger said: “I share the concerns of the partnership and totally oppose the closure.

“Hartlepool’s court does important work in crime and justice.

“The justice system should be closer to it, not further away.”

In a letter to Gill Alexander, the council’s chief executive, Mr Coppinger’s office says he sees for efficiencies and advantages of using technology, but has concerns about the access to users and justice being seen to be done locally.

He also believes the MoJ has underestimated the impact on court visitors, particularly the cost of travel, given many are of limited means.

Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher had said the council “vehemently opposes the closure.”