The closure of Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court would hit crime victims and force them to travel out of town to see justice being done, says the town’s MP Iain Wright.
Hartlepool Magistrates’ and County Court is being recommended for closure as the Government looks to close one in six courts nationwide.
The Government says underused and poor quality buildings are being recommended for closure in a consultation published by Courts Minister, Shailesh Vara.
Opponents say a town the size of Hartlepool should have its own magistrates’ court and it will affect the administration of justice.
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright and Hartlepool Borough Council Leader, Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher have urged people to take part in the consultation on the move.
Mr Wright described it as “wrong, inappropriate and inconvenient for Hartlepool victims and their friends and families”.
He added: “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.”
The buildings being consulted on represent 16 per cent of facilities in England and Wales, which are used on average for a third of their available time.
The Government says the majority of these courts are not used for at least two thirds of their available time, and one in three are not used three quarters of the time.
Staff and workers at the court in Victoria Road have been informed.
Courts and Tribunals Minister, Shailesh Vara, said: “We are reforming the courts and tribunal service so that it meets the needs of modern day users.”
Bosses are looking to provide alternative ways to access services, including using modern technology such as video conferencing to give evidence, and using other local civic and public buildings, such as town halls, for hearings. They say more than 95% of people will be able to reach their required court within an hour by car.
The consultation will last for 12 weeks and will close on October 8.
‘A town of Hartlepool’s size should have its own magistrates’ and county court’
The Leader of Hartlepool Borough Council has hit out at the proposals.
Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher was speaking after Courts and Tribunals Minister Shailesh Vara announced that consultation was under way recommending that 91 courts and tribunals are closed in England and Wales due to them being underused.
Coun Akers-Belcher 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.
“This is yet another example of Government cuts which will without doubt have a hugely detrimental effect on people at a local level.
“The council will be responding formally to the consultation once it has had the opportunity to debate the issue in full and I expect councillors will have very strong views on the proposals. I would also urge those that live and work in Hartlepool to participate in the consultation process.”
‘We’re a ghost town’
Readers have had their say on the plan on our Facebook page.
Ian Griffiths wrote: “Hartlepool will be reclassified as a village soon.”
Paula Cartin commented: “Before long Hartlepool will become a ghost town.”
Peter Killick wrote: “Can’t see how the courts were even considered, Hartlepool must have one of the highest petty crime rates going ...”
Julie Christine Gretton commented: “Another nail in Hartlepool’s coffin about time people stood up and fought for the town, before long we’re just going to be a dot on a map .”
Marky Hewitt said: “Hartlepool recommended for closure ... bit by bit.”
Judith Hindmarsh wrote: “Unbelievable.”
Stuie Hurst said: “Which courts will people have to attend then ? Middlesbrough, Stockton? Most people miss their court date in Hartlepool so got no chance of them going out of town, plus people can’t afford to travel so more fines for missing a court date, the Government are backward, haven’t got a clue!”
Matthew Mildred Clarke stated: “Last one out of Hartlepool turn the lights out please.”
Mike Lewis said: “Why not just shut the whole town,what a joke, but that’s what happens when we have Tory in charge.
This town is worthless, closing down bit by bit.”