As Chichester’s last court closes on Friday, the battle goes on to secure the future of court provision in the city.
The County Court is due to follow the Magistrates’ and Crown Court in closing down but a new facility has already opened at East Pallant House, the offices of Chichester District Council.
The Ministry of Justice has confirmed family and civil cases will be heard at the site, which will be capable of court provision for up to 100 days a year.
Edward Cooke, a Chichester family lawyer and mediator from specialist family law practice Edward Cooke Family Law, has led the campaign to keep court provision in the city.
Edward said: “Whilst the closure of the existing courthouse in Chichester marks a very sad day for the city, the new facility will at least ensure that cases involving some of the most vulnerable people in society will remain in the city.”
“Cases involving family breakdown, including children cases and those involving domestic abuse, can have a major impact on families and indeed society, and it is vital therefore that people can access justice locally.
“Similarly, it is excellent that the new court facility will continue to deal with cases involving people threatened with eviction and other housing problems.”
He said he was grateful for the support of homelessness charity Stonepillow, Pallant Chambers, Citizens Advice and Chichester BID.
He added he was very proud that, of the 90 courts across the country marked for closure in 2015, Chichester was the only place where significant alternative local provision had been fought for and established.
He said: “The arrangements at East Pallant House are on a two-year basis initially.
“It is vital that people continue to fight for the continuation of justice provision in Chichester.
“We will see a substantial increase in the population over the next decade and in light of this, it is particularly vital that essential local services, such as a court, are retained.”
Edward also said he was pleased that Tony Dignum, leader of Chichester District Council, and Gillian Keegan, MP for Chichester, have lent their voices to the vital importance of continuing court provision.
Edward said: “I was pleased to see a quote from Mr Dignum in Ms Keegan’s newly published 2017/18 annual report, citing her assistance in helping keep family and civil court cases in Chichester.”
A spokesman for Chichester District Council said: “We are pleased to be able to help facilitate a continued court presence in Chichester and there is not a planned end date to the arrangement.
“As with all of our agreements with third party occupiers, there would be periodic reviews, but we do not envisage any reason for the arrangement not to continue.”