Decision due on fate of Hartlepool’s court: Staff expect closure plan news in January

Hartlepool Magistrates' Court.
Hartlepool Magistrates' Court.

Court staff expect to find out early in the 2016 if Hartlepool’s court will close as part of a government shake-up.

Ministers are currently weighing up all the feedback they have received over the Ministry of Justice’s plans to shut 91 courts and tribunals in England and Wales including Hartlepool Magistrates’ court.

All the responses to the consultation are now in the process of being carefully reviewed and considered

HM Courts & Tribunals Service spokesperson

The proposed court closures are aimed at addressing court buildings that are not fully used, with a focus on greater use of technology through video and telephone conferencing to make savings.

Hartlepool’s court building was said to have used 47 per cent of its total capacity in 2014-15.

An HM Courts & Tribunals Service spokesperson said: “All the responses to the consultation are now in the process of being carefully reviewed and considered.

“Ministers will then make decisions and the consultation response will be published in due course.”

If Hartlepool’s court closed cases would be dealt with by Teesside Magistrates’ and County Court, in Middlesbrough.

Opponents have said it will make it harder for defendants, victims and relatives, especially those on a low income, to get to Middlesbrough.

The consultation ended on October 8.

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright said closing Hartlepool’s courts would not meet the aims of the Ministry of Justice to save money and dispose of buildings that are not fit for purpose.

Hartlepool’s court building is owned by Hartlepool Borough Council and has a long-term lease. Mr Wright said: “Seeing justice being done, and done so at a location close and convenient to them, is vital for victims of crimes and their 
families.

“Any closure would probably result in jobs being cut, meaning that local employment for a number of dedicated Hartlepool people will come to an end.”

Hartlepool Borough Council is also vehemently against closure. Council leader Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, previously said: “A town of Hartlepool’s size should have its own magistrates’ and county court and I am deeply concerned that the Government is proposing closure.

“Closure would result in many people having to make the journey to courts outside of the Hartlepool area which would be inconvenient, costly and impact adversely on the environment.”

Peter Bowes, chairman of the bench of justices in Hartlepool, described the court as a “vital and pivotal aspect of our town’s services”.

And community action group The Town of Hartlepool Challenge group launched the Save Hartlepool Magistrates Court website.