The consultation over plans to shut Buxton’s court concludes today (Thursday).
The government has proposed that HM Courts and Tribunal Service close 91 courts deemed unused or under-used, including High Peak Magistrates’ Court on Terrace Road, which also features the local county court.
If approved, the proposals will see hearings move to Chesterfield and those needing to attend court facing a journey of almost an hour by car and two hours or more by public transport.
Union leaders, JPs, Andrew Bingham MP, Derbyshire County Council and the area’s police commissioner have all expressed concerns over the closure plans.
High Peak Borough Council and the Law Society are the latest organisations to add their strong opposition to the proposals.
Responding to the consultation, the council said it did not support the proposal to transfer the services to Chesterfield and felt that flaws in the consultation process left it open to potential legal challenge if a decision was made to close the Buxton facility.
Councillor Emily Thrane, Executive Councillor for Corporate Services, said: “This council fully understands the pressures on publicly-funded bodies to make the most efficient use of their resources, to adopt modern technologies and the respond to citizens’ expectations but we cannot support the proposed closure of the Buxton court for several reasons.
“The assessment of the court premises is inaccurate and there is no evidence that the geography and climate of the High Peak or its transport arrangements have been properly taken into account. This has resulted in disproportionate weight being accorded to the unsuitability of the premises and inadequate weight to the unsuitability of the transport arrangements to Chesterfield.”
Magistrates have estimated that around two-thirds of the court’s business comes from Glossop, New Mills and Hayfield following the closure of the court in Glossop some years ago.
Councillor Alan Barrow, chair of the council’s Corporate Select Committee, said “There is only one option presented if the court in Buxton closes – transfer to Chesterfield – and the only information on travelling times is for journeys from Buxton. This ignores the possible impact on the significant communities in the North West of the High Peak.
“Travel information in the consultation document states that 73 per cent of journeys by public transport would take over two hours. Comparison with the data relating to other closure proposals shows these travelling times to be unusual and extreme but no attention has been drawn to this or the potential for this to act as disincentive to people attending court.”
The Law Society said the proposed closure of Buxton Magistrates’ and County Court would only deepen inequalities in justice system, and that its members had highlighted inaccuracies in the government’s consultation document.
Jonathan Smithers, president of The Law Society, added: “The proposed closure of Buxton Magistrates’ and County Court will make it more difficult for a significant number people to get to court, and the closures will more adversely affect people with disabilities and lower income families.
“Combined with the further planned increases in court fees and reductions in eligibility for legal aid, this closure will serve to deepen the inequalities in the justice system between those who can and cannot afford to pay.
“No matter who you are, no matter where you live, everyone in England and Wales must be able to access legal advice and the justice system.”
The consultation is on the department of justice website. Visit https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/proposal-on-the-provision-of-court-and-tribunal-es/consultation.
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