Andrew Tyrie has said if Chichester’s crown court has closed it is a ‘breach of faith’ by the Ministry of Justice.
The Chichester MP said he was ‘deeply concerned’ by reports the crown court had closed without first putting suitable local alternative provision in place, and is pressing for an explanation.
Despite no cases being listed and staff seen stripping the building of its belongings this week, the Government insists it remains open.
Mr Tyrie said: “The Ministry of Justice gave a firm commitment that the court would not be closed until this was in place – both to me in correspondence, and in the House of Commons.
“Closing the courts without a reasonable alternative would be very bad for my constituents.
“They would be faced with unacceptable travel times to reach the nearest court.
“It would also be a breach of faith by the Ministry.
“The decision to close the Crown Court was a mistake. I argued against it vigorously at the time.
“As a result of recent Freedom of Information requests, it now appears that the Ministry itself acknowledged at the time of their decision that other courts might not be able to absorb Chichester’s workload.
“The decision might have been more understandable if a sound economic case had been made in support of it.
“As far as I’m aware, no such case exists.”
Mr Tyrie’s strong words come after the Observer published details Resolution West Sussex’s Freedom of Information request, which show the Government’s top civil servants planned to keep Chichester’s crown court open after raising ‘significant concerns’, closing just the magistrates and county courts in the city.
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Mr Tyrie said: “The latest documents obtained through Freedom of Information requests support this conclusion.
“There seems to be no underlying economic logic at all behind the decision.
“A comparison with East Sussex is relevant. East Sussex has ten crown court rooms.
“West Sussex, with a larger population and geographical area, looks set to be left with no crown court at all.
“The Ministry of Justice owe my constituents an explanation, and I will be pressing them for it.
“In the meantime, the Government should keep this court open.”
An HMCTS spokesperson told the Observer last week: “The court is still able to hear cases and will only close once alternative provision arrangements have been established.”
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