Public meeting called to debate ‘undemocratic’ Chichester law court closures

Campaigners launch postcard writing  in a bid to save Chichester Law Courts.
Campaigners launch postcard writing in a bid to save Chichester Law Courts.

Campaigners fighting to keep justice in Chichester are holding a public meeting to debate serious concerns that court closure consultations have been ‘undemocratic and untransparent’.

The meeting has been organised by Chichester City Council in the Assembly Room, North Street on Tuesday September 27 at 6.30pm.

Solicitor Edward Cooke, one of the campaign coordinators, said they hoped for a ‘big turnout’ to discuss their proposal to keep justice provision in the city by cutting current court room provision from seven to three.

The vice chairman of Resolution, West Sussex region and past chairman of the Chichester and District Law Society said there were also: “serious concerns the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) have handled the consultation in an undemocratic and wholly untransparent manner.”

The MOJ announced earlier this year Chichester Magistrates Court would close at the end of this month and Chichester Combined Crown and County Courts, next March. But campaigners were assured the MOJ would establish ‘alternative local provision’ before the closures.

It had now announced it intended to go ahead with its plan, said Mr Cooke, but it had still not said what alternative it intended to put in place: “They seem intent on proceeding, despite their repeated assurances this would not happen until alternative local provision had been established.”

The campaigners’ plan for local provision had been ignored said Mr Cooke: “Despite their assurances it would be considered and responded to, the MOJ has, in announcing the Chichester Combined Court Centre will close next March, said it will not now respond to our proposal, despite its many previous assurances to the contrary.”

He said closure of all of Chichester Law Courts had ‘dire ramifications’ and would leave West Sussex as one of only two counties nationwide without a crown court.

The closures were opposed not only by Andrew Tyrie, West Sussex County, Chichester City and Chichester District councils, he said, but also by the South East Regional Bar (barristers organisation) and the national chairs of the Law Society and Resolution, the organisation of Family Lawyers.

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