New law court provision for Chichester is ‘a scandal’

DM1615923a.jpg Chichester Crown Court closure protest. Photo by Derek Martin. SUS-161203-205445008
DM1615923a.jpg Chichester Crown Court closure protest. Photo by Derek Martin. SUS-161203-205445008

Campaigners against the closure of Chichester’s law courts have branded the Ministry of Justice’s (MOJ) alternative plans ‘completely inadequate’ and ‘a scandal’.

They are now stepping up their campaign which could include an application to the High Court for a judicial review.

The MOJ has announced the closure of the Chichester Combined Court building will go ahead. It will be replaced with

video links at Chichester Police Station for victims and witnesses in criminal cases and the use the tribunal buildings in Havant for civil and family hearings.

Leading campaigner Edward Cooke, a family solicitor and vice chairman of the West Sussex branch of Resolution, a nationwide organisation of family law professionals said: “This is completely inadequate. On the criminal side it will leave West Sussex without a crown court, despite it being the 11th largest county in the country. This is a scandal.” He added:” The provision of occasional hearing facilities in Havant for civil and family cases is also wholly unsatisfactory. Havant is not an easy location for many people in the district to reach.”

The MOJ’s proposals would leave Chichester without facilities whereas until now it had seven busy courtrooms, he added.

“Many people, particularly those in outlying areas, the poor and vulnerable, and those reliant on public transport, will face real difficulties.”

He said a proposal put forward by campaigners to convert the magistrates court had been ignored despite MOJ assurances it would be considered: “The MOJ has failed to consider the views of local people, and the process they have managed has been utterly incompetent and undemocratic.”

Campaigners are now taking advice on their options including a judicial review. But Mr Cooke urged those who wanted to see justice remain in the Chichester district to write to Lord Chancellor, Elizabeth Truss MP, asking her to reconsider the MOJ’s decision.

The MOJ said crown court hearings would end in Chichester next March and the county court next June when the building would be closed.

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