Hartlepool councillors ‘deeply concerned’ over youth court closure

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

WORRIED councillors say they are “deeply concerned” at the impact closing Hartlepool Youth Court will have.

Hartlepool councillors had already agreed to write to the Government to air their concerns but other members have now raised their concerns despite attempts to “prevent the migration” of services.

Chris Simmons

Chris Simmons

Hartlepool Youth Court, based at Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court in Victoria Road, will cease functioning in April with the service transferred 15-miles to Teesside Magistrates’ Court in Middlesbrough.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s audit and governance committee had previously raised concerns and now the finance and policy committee has also objected.

The concerns were raised during a discussion about the Safer Hartlepool Partnership’s Community Safety Plan for the period 2014-2017.

Figures show the number of young people new to the youth justice system had dropped from more than 200 in 2008-09 to 64 in 2012-13.

Labour councillor Chris Simmons said: “I welcome the reduction in youth crime, however, I am very disturbed we are going to cease having a youth court in Hartlepool. We should be making sure young people attend court in their own locality.”

Council leader, Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher, said: “We did petition and try to prevent the migration of services to Teesside. We got a curt response back saying that the decision had been made.”

It means all under 18s who are charged with crimes in Hartlepool will have to make their way through to Middlesbrough along with a parent or carer who must accompany youths at court hearings.

Adjournments and delays to hearings will also mean several trips to Middlesbrough will potentially be needed, all adding to the cost and inconvenience of the extra travel for those involved, witnesses and police officers.

Meanwhile, Labour councillor Rob Cook said Hartlepool seemed to be being “signalled out” for change, while Labour’s Carl Richardson told the committee: “This could be the beginning of the end of the court system in Hartlepool.”

A spokeswoman for HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has previously said: “From April work from the youth court at Hartlepool will move to Teesside Magistrates’ Court due to a reduction in youth court business. The new listing arrangements will be kept under review.”