Justice Secretary Dominic Raab 'considering' reopening Hartlepool law courts

Hartlepool’s mothballed magistrates court could reopen to help clear a national backlog of cases.

Monday, 24th January 2022, 5:28 pm
Updated Thursday, 27th January 2022, 9:59 am

Town MP Jill Mortimer said Dominic Raab, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, has agreed to consider reopening the building after she meet with the minister in Westminster.

The law courts in Victoria Road closed five years ago this month as part of nationwide reforms by the Ministry of Justice which said the Hartlepool building was underused.

It was merged with Teesside Magistrates’ Court, based in Middlesbrough.

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Hartlepool MP Jill Mortimer meeting with Dominic Raab when she discussed the reopening of Hartlepool Magistrates Court.

Mrs Mortimer said: “With the closure of the magistrates' court, my constituents must make a 30-mile round trip to Middlesbrough to access basic justice services.

“This journey is particularly difficult for those in Hartlepool on low incomes, with disabilities and mobility issues, or with children and caring responsibilities.

“Reopening Hartlepool Magistrates' Court would greatly benefit those groups.”

The pandemic has seen an existing backlog of cases get even longer.

The entrance to the former Hartlepool Magistrates' Court.

Mrs Mortimer said at the end of last year that 60,000 cases nationally were waiting for a hearing at crown court.

Last week, the Government announced it was to increase the maximum sentence magistrates courts can impose to help tackle the backlog.

Magistrates’ court buildings are also doubling as crown courts to further reduce the list.

The Government is additionally recruiting an additional 4,000 magistrates.

“If the powers and remit of magistrates' courts were increased, the pressure on Crown Courts would be greatly reduced,” said Mrs Mortimer.

She added: “The closure of the magistrates' court in 2016-17 was just one more example of Hartlepool being let down by its Labour representatives in Westminster.

“I promised Hartlepool positive change, and that means reviving the things that Labour MPs neglected over a period of 57 years .

"Not just the court but also the University Hospital, jobs, and opportunities for our town.”

Mrs Mortimer said the future of Hartlepool Magistrates' Court will be discussed in more detail in writing with Mr Raab and she would comment further at a later stage.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “While there are no plans to reopen Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court, the Deputy Prime Minister will consider the points raised in this meeting.”

Stockton North Labour MP Alex Cunningham submitted a written Parliamentary question to the Justice Secretary last year asking if there were any plans to reopen the Hartlepool court.

He was told in July there were not and that the Government was working with the council to find an alternative use.

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