The impact of the closure of Buxton’s magistrates court has been highlighted during a debate in Parliament.
In the House of Commons last week, High Peak MP Ruth George asked what effect the court closure two years ago had on access to justice.
Mrs George has also called for High Peak cases to be heard at Stockport rather than at Chesterfield and Derby.
David Gauke, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, said: “Maintaining access to justice is a key principle when changes to the estate are proposed. The decision to close a court is never taken lightly, and is made only after full public consultation and where we are satisfied that access to justice is maintained.”
However, Mrs George disagreed with the minister’s comments, saying: “Some of my constituents now have to travel 40 miles on a one-and-a-half-hour trip to Chesterfield court.
“The police say that it now takes them a whole day to take someone to court, whereas it used to take less than half a day, and that is having an impact on the number of offenders they can bring to court and on justice in my area.”
Mr Gauke replied: “We also have to take into account the fact that 41 per cent of courts and tribunals used less than half their available hearing capacity during the financial year 2016-17, and across the country courts are utilised at 58 per cent of their capacity.
“In those circumstances, where resources are scarce, we have to make decisions about the reforms we undertake.
“It is important that we continue to look to get the best out of the resources we have.
“If that means reforms here in making greater use of digital technology and ensuring that our court estate is as rational and efficient as possible, we will need to continue to do that.”
When it was announced the court would be closing central government released the utilisation rate figures which showed Buxton Magistrates’ and County Court was operating at only 27 per cent capacity but still had to pay £90,000 a year for the whole building.
Speaking after the debate, Mrs George said: “I’m asking if High Peak residents can use the court that is easier for them to travel to.
“I hope the government might allow people to use Stockport instead of Derby.”