Blow to local justice as court to close early

Royal arms on the magistrates court building, Pontefract.'p2360d026'y5CivicComp
Royal arms on the magistrates court building, Pontefract.'p2360d026'y5CivicComp

VICTIMS of crime will have to travel to Wakefield to see justice served.

Pontefract Magistrates’ Court will close in March, 18 months ahead of schedule, the Ministry of Justice confirmed last week.

The government first announced plans to shut 98 magistrates’ courts and 49 county courts in July 2010, but it was not expected to go ahead until September 2014.

Hemsworth MP Jon Trickett has slammed the decision - which comes on the back of cuts which could see the police front desk close in South Kirkby.

He said: “It is sad news that the Tory-led government are now bringing forward the closure of Pontefract Magistrates’ Court.

“This decision has come at a time when we have already seen local police numbers cut dramatically and a reduction of services at South Kirkby police station.

“The Tories promised to cut waste, not frontline services, but the truth is we now see clear evidence that their cuts will have a huge impact on services in our area.”

Yvette Cooper, MP for Pontefract and Castleford, branded the news “unacceptable”.

She said: “Closing Pontefract Magistrates’ Court like this is absolute madness. It’s bad for local justice and local communities and I’m shocked at reports the government have brought the closure forward to March.

“Local people who have been victims or witnesses of crimes or antisocial behaviour have made it very clear that they don’t want to travel all the way to Wakefield to get justice, and there isn’t enough room at the Wakefield court so people will have to wait longer for a hearing too. This is completely unacceptable.”

A spokesman for Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) said the decision was made due to the standard of facilities at the site.

He said: “Following a change in circumstances at Pontefract Magistrates’ Court, including the loss of cell accommodation, and after discussions between the bench chairman and local management team, it has been decided to bring the date of the court closure forward to March 2013.

“The standard of accommodation and the facilities provided at Pontefract Magistrates’ Court fall short of the minimum requirement for the provision of services expected by our customers.”

HMCTS confirmed all criminal cases currently heard in Pontefract will transfer to Wakefield Magistrates’ Court and all family cases will transfer to the new Wakefield Civil Justice Centre which opens in January.

All Pontefract Magistrates’ staff will transfer to the Wakefield court and the distance between the two sites is less than ten miles with a good transport network linking the two, they added.