Hartlepool MP calls for court closure talks to end during Commons debate

Iain Wright MP during the debate on magistrates' court closures
Iain Wright MP during the debate on magistrates' court closures

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright called for the Government to scrap a consultation which proposes to close the town’s magistrates court building during a debate in Parliament he helped to secure.

Mr Wright said the Ministry of Justice, which is proposing to shut 91 courts in England and Wales, including Hartlepool, should start again.

It was after a debate on the issue in the House of Commons yesterday heard from other MPs that the consultation documents contained inaccurate information and details Mr Wright had asked for about the Hartlepool court were not available.

He said: “Given what is coming out of this debate I think the Ministry of Justice needs to scrap this consultation and start again on the basis of meaningful and accurate information.”

The debate was secured by Mr Wright and Conservative MP for Bath Ben Howlett.

The Government is consulting on proposals to close 91 courts including 57 magistrates courts. The consultation ends on October 8.

Mr Wright raised a number of points where he said closing Hartlepool’s courts would not meet the aims of the Ministry of Justice to save money and dispose of buildings that are not fit for purpose.

“There is nothing lacking from Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court,” he said.

Mr Wright also pointed out that the Government would not save money by closing Hartlepool as the building is owned by Hartlepool Borough Council on a long-term lease.

He said: “Does the minister realise that by closing Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court he is not saving the taxpayer anything, but is merely moving the financial problem to the local authority which has already seen cuts to its budget in recent years of 40%.”

Mr Wright added the court’s usage was 49% – the second highest of any of the courts being proposed for closure.

He said transferring the service to Middlesbrough would cause massive inconvenience, especially for victims and labelled public transport links “appalling”.

Mr Wright said there were bigger implications of the court closing following the transfer of hospital services out of town and shops deserting the high street.

He said: “What does that mean for the future? Does it mean at best dormitory towns or does it mean at worst ghost towns in which there is no sense of community and economic activity is closed?

“Given these concerns I hope the minister will think again and ensure that Hartlepool courts remain open.”