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Djanogly confirms 142 court closures

14 December 2010

Justice minister Jonathan Djanogly told parliament this afternoon that the government would be going ahead with the closure of 142 local courts.

Djanogly said 93 magistrates’ courts would be shut, with only ten spared following the consultation. County courts have fared just as badly, with only five remaining open and 49 closed.

One of the few courts to be saved is Newbury Magistrates’ Court, where David Cameron’s mother Mary sat for almost 30 years. Another is Abergavenny, which the MoJ had described as already closed even though it reopened in July this year after a refurbishment.

Lord Justice Goldring, the senior presiding judge for England and Wales, strongly criticised the court closure programme, warning that it could damage the morale and recruitment of magistrates (see solicitorsjournal.com, 21 October 2010).

However, Djanolgy said the closures would save the taxpayer around £41.5m, alongside the possible £38.5m which could be raised from the sale of properties.

He said that £22m of capital would be reinvested to improve and modernise the courts to which work would transfer.

“An estate of over 500 court buildings is not now necessary or sustainable, nor is it a reasonable expense for the taxpayer,” Djanogly said.

“We are closing the worst courts in the estate – so we can concentrate our limited resources on the best ones. We are investing in the court estate with new buildings and with refurbishment of facilities.”

The justice minister said the MoJ intended to make better use of technology, including giving witnesses the ability for witnesses to give evidence by video link. He announced that a pilot scheme would begin next month, giving police officers in summary trials the ability to give evidence in this way.

The MoJ’s consultation on the closures received more than 2,500 responses.

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