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Court Service: Estate

Volume 716: debated on Tuesday 5 January 2010


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what definition is used of “within reasonable travelling distance” with regard to the rural impact assessment of the closure of the 21 magistrates' courts on which they are consulting. [HL866]

HMCS is currently consulting on the proposed closure of 20 magistrates' courts. For each one of these courts a draft impact assessment has been carried out and respondents to the consultation are invited to comment on the potential impacts of closure. The decisions on whether to propose closure were taken on a case-by-case basis. Consideration was given to the proximity of other courts, the size and type of workload generated from the local area, and local transport links. Therefore, HMCS has avoided a generic approach but in all 20 cases, the alternative court is within 30 miles of the court proposed for closure. However, this is not to say that 30 miles would always be the appropriate level for “reasonable travelling distance”. In all cases it is possible to travel from the location of the old court to the new court on public transport or, in one case, on a combination of public transport and a local authority-run link service. It should be noted that all these courts were significantly underutilised and, at many of these courts, a representative group, which includes members of the local judiciary, had already decided to stop listing cases.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government why they concluded in the rural impact assessment on magistrates' courts closures that extra costs for the public will not always be incurred, as suggested by the statement that “there may be travelling expenses for those attending courts”; and in what circumstances travelling expenses would not be incurred. [HL867]

The impact assessment is concerned with any additional travelling expenses which a court user may incur if his case were transferred to a new court. However, such additional expenses may not always be incurred. For instance, many citizens are entitled to free travel on public transport, or court users who already had to travel to the old court may have a journey of similar length and expense to the new court. For each court, HMCS has conducted a draft impact assessment and comments on these assessments have been invited from respondents to the consultations. Only once all responses have been analysed will the impact assessment be finalised.