Scunthorpe Magistrates’ Court to close

NEWS from Nottingham Magistrates' Court.
NEWS from Nottingham Magistrates' Court.

Scunthorpe Magistrates’ Court, which handles cases from the Isle of Axholme, is to close.

Cases from the magistrates’ court and the county court will be transferred to Grimsby, Hull and Doncaster.

The court is among 86 across the country, which also includes Rotherham Magisatrates’ Court, which are due to shut as part of “modernisation” plans announced by HM Courts and Tribunal Service. No details of job losses of Scunthorpe have been confirmed as yet.

A petition against the closure, organised by Scunthorpe MP Nic Dakin, gathered more than 700 signatures but this was not enough to save the building.

The government has published a schedule for the closures, with six phases planned between now and September 2017.

Ministers said 48 per cent of court buildings were empty at least half of the time last year and the reforms aim to reduce the £500 million annual cost of the courts estate.

Justice Minister Shailesh Vara said on average the 86 courts due to be closed were only being used for just over a third of their available hearing time - equivalent to fewer than two days a week, he said.

More than 97 per cent of citizens would still be able to reach their required court “by car within an hour” after the closures, he said.

However, various groups have opposed the plans.

The Law Society, which represents solicitors, argues that many people using public transport would face long and expensive journeys.

Malcolm Richardson, national chairman of the Magistrates’ Association, a charity which represents magistrates in England and Wales, said many of its members would be “very worried” about the impact of the closures.

“There will be inevitable additional pressure on the system and the paramount concern of magistrates is for accessible justice to be protected.”

The family law organisation Resolution, which represents 6,500 family lawyers and other professionals in England and Wales, called the government’s plans a “simplistic, ill-thought through exercise.”

“Those affected the most by these closures will be vulnerable people such as victims of domestic abuse, young people and those who rely on public transport to get around.”