Fifteen jobs could be at risk if a town’s court is mothballed following recommendations by the Government.
Hartlepool Magistrates’ and County Court, in Victoria Road, could close later this year depending on the outcome of a consultation.
But in the meantime, eight Magistrates’ Court staff, and seven County Court workers face an anxious wait for their future.
A spokesman for Her Majesty’s Court Service (HMCS) could not comment on potential redundancies or relocation while the 12-week consultation takes place. “At this stage we don’t know,” she told the Mail.
HCMS has said, however, that Hartlepool’s work would be transferred to Teesside Magistrates’ Court and Middlesbrough County Court, both in Middlesbrough, should the closure go ahead.
It also revealed that one reason for its recommendations is that the court is “under used”.
A HCMS document on the proposal reads that should the court close “an improved and a more efficient service could then be delivered.”
It adds: “Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court is under used. There are five courtrooms and two of these are used for crime work. Family work is listed in one of the courtrooms every Tuesday. One of the courtrooms is used for tribunal hearings on an ad hoc basis and the remaining courtroom is not used as the facilities are out of date.
“There are 16 courtrooms at Teesside Magistrates’ Court and these are not fully used so there is sufficient capacity to accommodate the hearings from Hartlepool.”
The situation for the County Court is similar.
During 2014/15, Hartlepool’s court was used at about 47 per cent capacity, with operating costs totalling about £345,000.
The court was purpose-built in 1979 as a magistrates’ court and later adapted to accommodate the County Court. As well as the court rooms there are 10 cells.
The consultation survey can be taken by logging onto: https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/proposal-on-the-provision-of-court-and-tribunal-es.