Suffolk councils agree response to consultation on proposed court closures

CONCERNED: Tim Passmore, Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner
CONCERNED: Tim Passmore, Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner

Councillors want six months to consider alternatives to the proposed closure of two Suffolk magistrates’ courts before a final decision is made.

Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils’ executive committee met yesterday to discuss their response to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) consultation on the closure of 91 courts and tribunals across England and Wales, due to end on Thursday.

Courts in Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft are among the proposed closures, but there are concerns doing so will add cost to other public services in the county.

Yesterday committee members approved their joint consultation response.

In it, they said: “Suffolk has experienced several court closures including magistrates’ courts in Newmarket, Mildenhall, Felixstowe, Haverhill, Sudbury, Stowmarket, Brandon and Woodbridge.

“It is the view of both Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils this latest proposal is not in the best interests of the residents.

“A single court to serve the whole of the county is likely to cause greater issues with access and greater cost for residents and other public service providers.”

They also agreed to support a joint overall response for Suffolk, based on a letter by Tim Passmore, Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner, which asks for more time to consider alternatives.

In his letter to Shailesh Vara, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Minister for the Courts and Legal Aid, Mr Passmore said: “I am asking that these proposals for Suffolk are at least held in abeyance for six months whilst detailed alternatives are compiled which meet the objective of improving efficiency and effectiveness, save taxpayers’ money and build trust and confidence in our criminals justice system.

“If the proposals proceed, Suffolk will be one of only six rural counties with a solitary magistrates’ court making life even more difficult for remote communities.”