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Court Buildings

Volume 448: debated on Tuesday 11 July 2006

23. When she next expects to meet representatives of the lay magistracy to discuss improvements to court buildings. (83869)

I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Lady for that reply, but when looking at improvements to magistrates courts, will she ensure that her Department always makes a priority of ensuring that justice is kept close to local communities? Does she agree that local hooligans and vandals need to be tried as close to their homes as possible, so that they learn to respect the administration of justice? Does she also agree that it is important that there be no further court closures in East Anglia?

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point about the need for people to see justice happening in their local area. In addition, we want to ensure that the courts in which people are tried have proper facilities for victims and witnesses, and disabled access. If possible, we also want to ensure—certainly on the civil side—that people can get disputes resolved without having to go to court. We must balance all those issues and get good value for money out of the courts estate—including judges’ lodgings.

What impact will the significant cuts in the Courts Service budget have on the court building and refurbishment programme?

Obviously the courts estate budget is part of the Courts Service budget as a whole. People want value for money from all public services. As the hon. Gentleman will know, the Government have invested across the piece in public services such as health, education, law and order and indeed the justice system, but we must make absolutely sure that we secure value for money, and that is what the Courts Service will try to do.