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Wisbech Magistrates Court

Volume 514: debated on Tuesday 20 July 2010

16. What account he took of the availability of public transport in rural areas around Wisbech in his decision to propose the closure of Wisbech magistrates court. (9428)

In selecting courts on which to consult, one of the key principles applied was to try and ensure that people should not have to make excessively long or difficult journeys to attend court. Although it is important, proximity to a court should not be the only consideration—we need also to consider the speed with which cases are dealt with and the quality of the facilities at our courts. We also want to explore ways we can harness technology more effectively so people do not necessarily physically have to attend court when accessing court services.

I thank the Minister for that reply and for the constructive way in which he is consulting. As he says, proximity is not the only factor but what is relevant is how many people are affected by a journey of more than 60 minutes. Will he clarify which year he is using to assess the population given that Fenland has seen a significant increase in its numbers in recent years? Will he allow for the housing trend where planning permission has already been given?

We are consulting on one court in my hon. Friend’s constituency, Wisbech. As my hon. Friend noted, it is envisaged that work from that court will be transferred to Peterborough magistrates court, which is approximately 23 miles away. Travel times and distances will be constant from various locations within the constituency, so population is only one aspect to consider. We must also consider the frequency of court attendance, which is very low in Wisbech, with a utilisation of only 37%.