Crime commissioner slams court closures

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Plans to close two courts in West Yorkshire will hurt victims and witnesses according to the police and crime commissioner.

Mark Burns-Williamson said the difficult experience of going to court would be made even harder if Calderdale and Wakefield Magistrates’ courts are closed, and has written to the Ministry of Justice to oppose the plan.

The closures would mean the only remaining criminal courts in West Yorkshire courts would be in Bradford, Leeds and Huddersfield.

Mr Burns-Williamson, said: “I disagree with these planned closures. Victims and witnesses come first in my Police and Crime Plan but by reducing the number of courts available you reduce their access to local justice.

“Going to court can be a difficult experience for victims and witnesses – by denying local access in this way the Government would make it even more difficult for many people.

“If the courts in Calderdale and Wakefield close then where would a victim or witness local to those buildings go? A trip to Bradford, Leeds or Huddersfield could be expensive and time consuming and put people off going through the criminal justice system.

“These proposals would be on top of painful cuts that have been taken already from the legal aid budget. These cuts already restrict the access ordinary hard working people have to justice. By cutting the number of courts available the situation would be made even worse and for the first time in living memory major areas such as Wakefield and Calderdale will not have a court.

“The current court set-up is a sensible one because it mirrors the model of five policing districts used by West Yorkshire Police and helps ensure close partnership working with the police and other partners.

“By removing the Calderdale and Wakefield courts there will be a situation where, for the first time in a long time, there will be some policing districts without a court.

“I know we can and must do more with new technology to make the court process more efficient but that should be for the benefit of victims and witnesses. Closing these court buildings does not help local access to justice for our communities and I really hope the MOJ reconsider viable alternatives to their current proposals.”