Anger over shake-up of magistrates’ court system in County Durham

Peterlee Magistrates Court
Peterlee Magistrates Court

A SHAKE-UP of the magistrates’ court system in County Durham will not help “local justice”, according to a solicitor.

From March 31, changes to court case listings will see all road traffic offences from across the county dealt with at Darlington Magistrates’ Court, while youths will be dealt with at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court on Mondays.

This will see defendants from East Durham faced with car journeys of up to 30 miles, lasting at least 45 minutes, or a 90-minute bus journey.

Peterlee Magistrates’ Court will be a centralised domestic violence court and will also deal with all types of adult custody and crime and private prosecutions from across the county.

Martin Scarborough, a partner with Smith & Graham Solicitors in Peterlee, said: “The idea of local people delivering local justice goes out of the window. And I think the administration of the courts will not run smoothly.

“The reality is, with pressures of distance, time and money, there will be problems with people turning up. This could force warrants to be issued and people appearing in custody.”

An HM Courts & Tribunals spokesperson said: “HMCTS, in conjunction with the judiciary, routinely reviews local listing arrangements, taking into account changes in workload, in order to make the best use of resources and facilities for users and taxpayers alike.”

The spokeswoman said the change to youth court “reflects a reduction of youth court work in the area” and added: “The new arrangement will also maximise use of court facilities and enable youth courts to continue to sit weekly.

“The new listing arrangements will be kept under review.”