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Petitions

Volume 602: debated on Thursday 26 November 2015

Petition

Thursday 26 November 2015

Observations

Justice

Closure of Wakefield Magistrates' Court

The petition of residents of the Wakefield constituency,

Declares that the Petitioners are concerned about the proposed closure of Wakefield Magistrates’ Court and the impact this will have on access to justice in areas including Wakefield, Pontefract, Castleford, Featherstone, Normanton and Knottingley; further that the closure of the court would force local people to travel to Leeds; and further that this proposal follows the 2013 closure of Pontefract Magistrates’ Court, which resulted in some staff and work moving to Wakefield Magistrates’ Court.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to reconsider the proposal to close Wakefield Magistrates’ Court.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mary Creagh, Official Report, 13 October 2015; Vol. 600, c. 287.]

[P001548]

Observations from the Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Shailesh Vara):

The consultation on the provision of court and tribunals services in England and Wales ran from 16 July to 8 October 2015. HM Courts & Tribunals Service is currently in the process of assessing all responses to the consultation and expects to announce the outcome in due course. I have asked HM Courts & Tribunals Service officials to record the points and suggestions made in the petition so that they can be fully considered as part of the consultation process.

The HM Courts & Tribunals Service Reform Programme is a once in a generation opportunity to create a modern, user focused and efficient courts and tribunals service. As part of this programme, on 16 July 2015 I announced proposals for the reform of the court and tribunal estate.

Whilst HM Courts & Tribunals Service acknowledge and accept that some people will need to travel further to reach their nearest court and for some the journey, if made by public transport, may be over an hour, for the majority of people the closure will have little impact. We are mindful of the infrequency with which people need to attend court and the small proportion of people would use public transport to reach court.

Access to justice is not just about proximity to a court. We are committed to providing alternatives to travel, for example through making better use of technology, including video conferencing, and exploring whether we can appropriately make use of civic buildings for certain types of hearing.