Chichester law courts will close from the end of the month

Lawyers, residents and councillors outside Chichester Crown Court protesting the closures in March. Photo by Derek Martin. SUS-161203-205422008
Lawyers, residents and councillors outside Chichester Crown Court protesting the closures in March. Photo by Derek Martin. SUS-161203-205422008

Chichester Magistrates’ Court is expected to close on September 30, the government has confirmed.

The city’s combined court (Crown and County) will then close in March next year, leaving West Sussex without a county court facility.

The news will come as a major blow to the many Chichester councillors, lawyers and residents who mounted a major fight to save the historic courts after news that they will close was announced in February.

HM Courts & Tribunals Service confirmed that Chichester’s Magistrates’ Court is expected to cease listing on September 30, with Crown Court listings expected to cease in March, 2017.

An HMCTS spokesperson said: “We have a world-leading legal system and are investing over £700 million to reform and digitise our courts to deliver swifter justice.

“Closing under-used and dilapidated court buildings will allow us to reinvest in the justice system and make the best use of technology.

“This will improve access to justice and improve the experience for all court users, in particular vulnerable victims and witnesses.”

HMCT added that ‘the decision to close Chichester Combined Court was not taken lightly’ and that work will be distributed primarily to Worthing County Court and Family Court.

In total 86 courts and tribunal buildings of the 460 across England and Wales are being closed, which amounts to nearly a fifth.

The mass closures are part of the government’s ‘modernisation’ plans, which include installing digital systems and reducing costs by £500m a year.

Lawyers from Chichester and District Law Society and West Sussex Resolution mounted a fight against the closures, arguing that people’s access to justice would be severely diminished.

The nearest crown court centre to Chichester in Sussex is at Hove, with the nearest Magistrates’ courts located in Worthing and Horsham.

It is currently unclear what will happen to the staff who work at Chichester’s courts.

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