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Local Access to Justice

Volume 592: debated on Tuesday 3 February 2015

We keep the courts estate under review to ensure it meets operational needs and our aim to improve effective delivery of the justice system across our country.

Skipton magistrates court is key to providing local access to the justice system for one of the most rural parts of our country. Will the Minister confirm that he will do everything he can to ensure that that court is kept busy and stays open?

As the Police Minister, I am sure some of my colleagues in the police force will be doing exactly that. I do not think there has been a better advocate for a constituency magistrates court than my hon. Friend. Every time he opens his mouth in conversation with me or my colleagues in the Tea Room, he talks about Skipton magistrates court. I would do exactly the same if I was in his position.

When I had a meeting about my local magistrates court merger with the Courts Service, the court clerk in charge of the decision was based in Llanelli. Does the Minister regard that as local justice?

I honestly think that when we look at the courts estate we need to make sure it is fit for purpose around the country. Where someone is based is immaterial. What we need to do is ensure we make the right decisions.

Will my right hon. Friend take a critical look at the proposal on its way to his desk that there should be a single local justice area stretching from Berwick to Sunderland, which could lead to cases being transferred for administrative convenience to courts 70 miles away at great cost to witnesses and families?

I will, naturally, look at any submission that comes across my desk. I am sure the Minister responsible will look at that very carefully when it arrives.

How many courts, closed since May 2010, remain on the estate undisposed of? What is the cost to the taxpayer of this policy?