Alternative court provision in Chichester is giving ‘continued access to justice’

East Pallant House in Chichester city centre SUS-181005-163514001
East Pallant House in Chichester city centre SUS-181005-163514001

The first month of alternative court provision for Chichester has had ‘positive feedback’, according to a government representative.

Chichester’s last court, the combined county court for civil and family hearings, closed in December last year with cases now heard at the district council offices in East Pallant House, 50 Fridays a year.

It followed extensive lobbying from campaigners and this newspaper to retain court provision in the city, which also lost its Crown and Magistrates courts in recent years under a review by the Ministry of Justice.

The first official sitting in the council’s committee rooms took place on Friday January 4 following a pilot last July.

The types of cases being heard are non-criminal and those that are considered to be lowest risk, including small claims and possession cases.

Leader of Chichester District Council, councillor Tony Dignum, said: “Last year’s trial went extremely well and so we are very pleased to be able to offer this provision and support to the Ministry of Justice.

“We have worked very closely with HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) to create a solution that helps keep ongoing court provision in the city, and ensures that residents continue to have local access to justice when they need it.

“The arrangement will also save the taxpayer money by providing better use of government buildings.”

John Miller, HMCTS Estates Reform Lead South East Region, said: “We are delighted that hearings are now taking place at Chichester District Council offices, this is great news for local court users and their continued access to justice.

“Initial feedback has been positive and I’d like to thank the council for their support in making this happen.”