CHICHESTER could lose its criminal and civil courts under new proposals published today by the government (July 16).
The Ministry of Justice has started a public consultation lasting 12 weeks.
Shailesh Vara, from the ministry, announced the consultation on closing 91 courts and tribunals across England and Wales.
“Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service operates 460 courts and tribunal hearing centres across England and Wales,” said the parliamentary under-secretary of state for courts and legal aid at the Ministry of Justice in a written statement to the House of Commons.
“The estate costs taxpayers around half a billion pounds each year, and at present, it is underused.
“Last year over a third of all courts and tribunals were empty for more than 50 per cent of their available hearing time.”
He added: “Today’s consultation puts forward proposals that aim to reduce this surplus capacity. The buildings being consulted on represent 16 per cent of hearing rooms across the estate which are, on average, used for only a third of their available time.
“That is equivalent to fewer than two out of five days in a week.”
Chichester Combined Court (Crown and County) and Chichester Magistrates’ Court would all be closed.
Mr Vara said ‘better access to justice’ could be provided if difficult decisions to reduce the cost of the ministry’s estates were made and the savings reinvested.
Parliament was told on June 23 this would mean ‘a significant number of additional courts will have to close’.
If Chichester Magistrates’ Court was to be closed, the nearest alternatives would be Crawley, Horsham or Worthing.
The nearest crown court centre in Sussex would be at Hove.
To take part in the consultation, go to: www.gov.uk/government/consultations/proposal-on-the-provision-of-court-and-tribunal-estate-in-england-and-wales.
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