Solicitors criticise plans to close Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ Court

The Government are planning to close Bury Magistrates' Court''Pictured: Solicitors: Claire Lockwood, David Stewart, Nick Jennaway, Declan Gallagher, Michael Whatley and Lyndon Davies ANL-150720-162321009
The Government are planning to close Bury Magistrates' Court''Pictured: Solicitors: Claire Lockwood, David Stewart, Nick Jennaway, Declan Gallagher, Michael Whatley and Lyndon Davies ANL-150720-162321009

Solicitors have criticised the Government’s plan to close Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ Court and move its workload to Ipswich and Norwich.

The proposal is part of a Ministry of Justice (MOJ) consultation which could see 57 Magistrates’ Courts, 19 County Courts and two Crown Courts close across the country.

Stowmarket-based solicitor David Stewart, from McCarthy Stewart Booty, said the system needed investment rather than ‘slash and burn’ cost saving.

“The current proposed cuts to all of this will leave this country with a barely functioning system where justice (for victims and defendants) will be simply consigned to the history channel and irreparable damage will be the result,” he said.

Claire Lockwood, from Oslers Solicitors, said: “My main concern is the distance that staff and vulnerable victims have got to travel.
“Many of those who use the court may have mental health issues who simply won’t be able to afford getting to Ipswich Magistrates Court.

“Our public transport is not sufficient, especially from places like Haverhill or Sudbury.

Declan Gallagher, from law firm Burnett Barker, said: “It is a breathtakingly arrogant disregard for the needs of victims and other court users in favour of the needs and ease of the court administration.

“It is typical of the assumption that everybody travels from the centre of Bury St Edmunds - tell that to a lone parent surviving on benefits in the back end of rural Suffolk.”

Lyndon Davis, from Oslers, added: “I think the youth court is a major problem too.
“It will mean young people will have to travel to either Ipswich or Huntington for justice.”

The consulation document states the court, which currently employs 13 members of staff, costs around £272,000 to run each year.
It reads: “It is a Grade II listed building, which makes it difficult to adapt to meet modern standards and requires listed planning approval.
“The accommodation is inadequate and in need of modernisation.”.

But Mr Gallagher said the court in Ipswich was no better.

“By the standards of any court in the country the Ipswich Magistrates Court building is ancient and inadequate in terms of space and facilities,” he said.

Mrs Lockwood added: “They simply didn’t build it to cater for the whole county.”

The consulation ends of October 8.