Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court is being recommended for closure by the Government.
Underused and poor quality court and tribunal buildings are being recommended for closure in a consultation published today by Courts Minister, Shailesh Vara.
We are reforming the courts and tribunal service so that it meets the needs of modern day users.Courts and Tribunals Minister, Shailesh Vara
The buildings being consulted on represent 16 per cent of hearing rooms across the estate in England and Wales, which are, on average, used for only a third of their available time.
That is equivalent to fewer than two out of five days in a week.
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.
Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court and County Court is included in the list of affected courts.
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.
“Access to justice is not just about attending court. As we bring in digital technology for better and more efficient access to justice, fewer people will need to physically be in a court.
“This means that we will need fewer buildings, and with many already underused and in poor quality, now is a good time to review the estate.”
Natalie Ceeney, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service Chief Executive, said: “Our estate is a significant asset. We currently have a number of surplus buildings and this consultation puts forward proposals on their future.
“As we modernise our service so that fewer people will need to attend a court in person, spending money on unsuitable or rarely used buildings is not good value for money for taxpayers.
“I encourage anyone with an interest to respond to the proposals.”
The courts being recommended for closure in the North are:
• Hartlepool Magistrates’ and County Court;
• Consett Magistrates’ Court;
• Halifax County Court and Family Centre;
• Halifax (Calderdale) Magistrates’ and Family Court;
• Morpeth County Court;
• Rotherham Magistrates’ Court, County Court and Family Court;
• Scunthorpe Magistrates’ Court, County Court; and Family Court; and
• Wakefield Magistrates’ Court.
The courts and tribunal service says it is modernising the justice system to create a simpler, swifter and more efficient service – using modern technology to meet the needs of everyone who uses them now and in the future.
A courts spokeswoman said: “Attending court is rare for most people. It will still be the case that, after these changes, over 95 per cent of citizens will be able to reach their required court within an hour by car.
“This represents a change of just one percentage point for Crown and magistrates’ courts and two percentage points for County Courts.
“The proportion of citizens able to reach a tribunal within an hour by car will remain unchanged at 83 per cent.”
The consultation will last for 12 weeks and will close on 8 October 2015.