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Magistrates Court

Council Sets Out Opposition to Proposed Court Closure

 

Bedford Borough Council has set out its opposition to the proposed closure of Bedford Magistrates’ Court in a powerful and wide-ranging submission to Government.

 

In its response to the Government’s consultation on plans to follow its downgrading of the Magistrates Court in 2014 and de-listing of all criminal cases with the full closure of the court, the Council has detailed the array of harmful effects this proposal would have on its own operations and resources, on the local administration of justice and on local residents’ access to justice.

 

Commenting, Mayor Dave Hodgson said:  “The closure of Bedford Magistrates’ Court would mean witnesses, lawyers, defendants and everyone involved in cases would have to travel some distance to attend hearings. While this might save the Courts Service some money, our response to the government’s plans sets out its harmful impact in terms of extra costs for local witnesses and other members of the public involved in cases and for taxpayers via other parts of the public sector, including the Council.  It will also limit access to justice for local residents, and will increase the likelihood of non-attendance by defendants.”

 

“It is absolutely essential that access to justice locally is maintained, and we hope that the government will listen to our powerful case, and to all of those who have spoken up in opposition to these harmful plans.”

 

The Council’s submission stresses the need for local access to justice to be retained and, in the event that the government does go ahead with its plans, highlights the availability of vacant space in Borough Hall in the interest of preserving the local administration of cases.

 

Bedford Magistrates’ Court, known locally as ‘Shire Hall,’ is a building of key importance to the character of St. Paul’s Square where it is located. The courthouse, which was built in 1881, makes an outstanding contribution to the architectural and historic interest in the town as whole and has played a central part in Bedford Borough’s justice system for over 134 years.

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