Campaigners fighting to stop the closure of law courts in Chichester have come up with a new proposal to keep facilities in the city.
Resolution and the Chichester and District Law Society is proposing the existing magistrates’ court building is converted into a new Chichester Combined Court building and hearing centre.
Now leading campaigner Edward Cooke, a family solicitor and vice chairman of the West Sussex branch of Resolution, a nationwide organisation of family law professionals, has sent the proposals to HMCTS, the court arm of the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), due to meet shortly to look at alternative provision.
He told HMCTS project manager John Miller, the proposals was based on the existing crown and county court buildings being sold.
“Such a solution would make it possible for the MOJ to achieve its core objective of budgetary savings by selling off the existing Chichester combined court site while at the same time ensuring suitable alternative justice provision is retained for the Chichester District.”
He said the proposals were endorsed by Chichester MP Andrew Tyrie and had been drawn up after meetings with the leaders of Chichester district and West Sussex county councils, who were ‘extremely concerned’ about the proposed closure before an alternative was in place.
“The removal of law courts and hearing facilities from Chichester would leave the county town without any local justice provision. In our view this would be wholly unacceptable,” he told the MOJ.
“As far as we are aware,” Mr Cooke told the Observer, “aside from the suggestion of a video link room for witnesses to give evidence from in some criminal cases, no proposal at all has thus far been put forward by the MOJ as to suitable local alternative provision in the event that the courts in Chichester close. This would reduce the current number of court rooms in Chichester from seven to zero.
“We believe it is incredibly important court facilities are secured for the Chichester district. The current position of the MOJ would leave West Sussex without a crown court, and Chichester, as the county town, with no court room local justice provision at all.”
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