Hartlepool politician calls on government to reopen town's court building 'without delay'

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A politician has called on justice chiefs to reopen Hartlepool’s mothballed magistrates’ court to help clear a backlog of cases.

Jonathan Brash, Labour’s candidate for MP at the next general election, has written to Justice Secretary Alex Chalk after it was reported that judges were recommending using community buildings to clear a record backlog of 66,547 cases nationally.

Hartlepool’s magistrates court, attached to the civic centre in Victoria Road, closed in 2017 as part of a government plan to save money.

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The building was also said to be “underused” and required major structural refurbishment.

Jonathan Brash, Labour's parliamentary candidate for Hartlepool, has written to the Justice Secretary urging him to reopen Hartlepool's law courts.Jonathan Brash, Labour's parliamentary candidate for Hartlepool, has written to the Justice Secretary urging him to reopen Hartlepool's law courts.
Jonathan Brash, Labour's parliamentary candidate for Hartlepool, has written to the Justice Secretary urging him to reopen Hartlepool's law courts.

Cases have since been dealt with by Teesside Magistrates’ Court in Middlesbrough.

Former judge Dame Anne Rafferty has reportedly suggested using libraries, pubs, supermarkets, church halls, and schools during the holidays for pop-up courts to tackle the country’s backlog.

Hartlepool borough councillor Brash said: “In Hartlepool, we had a functioning court for over six centuries until 2017, when it was closed by this Conservative Government.

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"It is beyond belief that this purpose built building is lying empty, while record numbers of cases pile up, which is denying justice for so many.

Hartlepool's former Law Courts, incorporating Hartlepool Magistrates' Court.Hartlepool's former Law Courts, incorporating Hartlepool Magistrates' Court.
Hartlepool's former Law Courts, incorporating Hartlepool Magistrates' Court.

"So, before ‘pubs, church halls and libraries’ are put into use, I am calling on the Conservative Government to reverse their closure of Hartlepool’s court building without delay to reduce the backlog.”

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There has been evidence of official justice being carried out in Hartlepool as far back as 1587.

The town’s first magistrates’ court was opened in 1893 in The Athenaeum, in Church Street, followed by various venues, including The Druids Hall, in Tower Street, a former library in Church Square, the Borough Hall and The People’s Centre, in Raby Road.

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The last court building in Victoria Road operated since 1976.

Mr Brash says the loss of Hartlepool’s court has been one of several service cuts since 2010 including changes to the police station and loss of the hospital’s A&E department.

“It is time to restore services to our town,” he said.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court was closed in 2017 following a public consultation and helped spare taxpayers the cost of restoring an underused building requiring major refurbishments.

“We will respond to Mr Brash’s letter in due course.”