Closure of Fenland Magistrates’ Court in Wisbech announced by the government today

THE months of waiting for a decision are over - it was announced today that Wisbech Magistrates’ Court is to close as part of a government cost cutting exercise.

Despite opposition to the proposed closure from MP Stephen Barclay, local magistrates and solicitors, the Justice minister could not be persuaded to save the court.

The workload from Wisbech courthouse will be split between three magistrates’ courts, Peterborough, Huntingdon and King’s Lynn.

And the Fenland bench of magistrates will be merged with the Peterborough bench. The new local justice area will take effect from January 1 2012.

No exact date for the court closure has been announced, but a statement says “transitional arrangements” will take place during 2011.

Her Majesty’s Court Service stated: “The only sensible way forward for HMCS is to close Wisbech. the move to fewer but strategically located court buildings with modern facilities, offers the opportunity of an improved service for all court users. A reduction in the number of court buildings will make it easier for HMCS and other partner agencies. as well as voluntary services, to attend the court and provide their services.”

The statement added: “HMCS is confident that despite the financial climate and the fact that Wisbech is a listed building, disposal of this estate, in a timely manner, is realistic.”

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Wisbech is one of 93 magistrates’ courts to be closed, and another 49 county courts will be shut.

Justice minister Jonathan Djanopgly told MPs that the current court system was “unsustainable” and in a statement to the House of Commons, he said the changes to the court system would mean a “better, more efficient and more modern” system of justice, with premises modernised.

He promised that the closures would mean that 85 per cent of people could still get to their nearest court within an hour. via public transport.

He added: “The closures which I am announcing will release significant funds which we are to be re-investing in capital projects, in proper facilities for victims, and witnesses, and in moving forward with innovations such as video-links which have the potential to revolutionise the way justice is delivered in this country.”

MP Mr Barclay had suggested that work from Ely court could be moved to Wisbech to bolster its workload, but HMCS said such a move was not sensible “particularly when both Cambridge and Peterborough courthouses have superior facilties.”

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