Chorley Magistrates Court in Lancashire closing : What it means for defendants, staff and local residents
The government has announced Chorley Magistrates Court on St Thomas's Rd is one of seven courts closing, including Fleetwood also in Lancashire, as they are '˜significantly underused' and as part of a wider modernisation of the courts service.
Here is what you need to know:
* It follows a 10-week consultation which began in January this year. Eight courts were on the list but only Cambridge was given a reprieve.
* In the 2017/18 financial year, Chorley Magistrates Court sat less than half of its available hours. Preston will be given an an additional tribunal hearing room, meaning that the work of Chorley can be readily accommodated.
* At the time of the consultation, Chorley MP Sir Lindsay Hoyle said: “Chorley needs a Magistrates court, it is as simple as that. The whole point of a Magistrate is that justice is administered locally from within the community. People’s jobs are at risk and we know from closures of family courts and the county court that failures to attend massively increase when the court is further away, which costs even more time and money in the long run.”
* The closure means anybody who is required to attend magistrates court in the Chorley area will now have to travel to Preston. Leyland Magistrates court was closed several years ago.
* The Government is investing Â£1 billion in reforming and modernising courts and tribunals, including an online system which enables court staff to prepare case files and access them digitally in a courtroom during a hearing – saving 68 million pages of paper.
* Those convicted of minor motoring offences are now make their initial plea online instead of attending court. Some 1,500 pleas are dealt with online every week. Court staff and the police automatically receive the completed online plea form as soon as the defendant has submitted it, reducing delays.
* Through civil court processes you can also now make a small money claim online, apply for a divorce online and apply for probate online.
* The government court buildings to close are considered are either underused, dilapidated or too close to another will be closed, with money raised reinvested into modernising the justice system.
* The seven courts to close are: Banbury Magistrates’ and County Court, Blackfriars Crown Court, Chorley Magistrates’ Court, Fleetwood Magistrates’ Court, Maidenhead Magistrates’ Court, Northallerton Magistrates’ Court and Wandsworth County Court.
*Following the announcement Lord Chancellor, David Gauke said: “All money raised from the sale of these buildings will be reinvested into the justice system, and we want to reassure communities that those affected by closures will have access to alternative courts. We must ensure we use public money effectively and make decisions in the best interest of the wider justice system.”
*No announcement has been made re the future of staff at the courts.