Fenland Magistrates’ Court set to close

FENLAND Magistrates’ Court is set to close because it is judged to be “underused and inadequate”.

The Ministry of Justice has included the Wisbech courthouse in wide-ranging cutbacks proposed to save money and transform the criminal justice system.

It said Fenland was one of 530 courts in the country that “do not fit the needs of modern communities” and that doing away with it would “create a more modern, fit-for-purpose justice system”.

A statement from Her Majesty’s Court Service added that the workload of the court had changed dramatically since it opened and that there was not a need for all disputes to be solved in court.

It also said the population of the area, as well as its transport and communication links, was different now and rendered the need for criminals to attend all hearings unnecessary.

But former Wisbech mayor and Wisbech Town Council leader Roger Green said closing the court would be “bad for the town” and said people would have to “unite and fight to retain one of our rapidly diminishing assets”.

And North East Cambs MP Steve Barclay said it was “another blow to the town”.

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He said he was “disappointed” by the decision and added: “We need to get away from the dogma that larger always means more efficient.”

He said it would particularly impact those in rural communities but added: “The economy is in such dire straits there is unpleasant medicine to take.”

Courts Minister Jonathan Djanogly said: “The arrangements we have are historical and now need to be re-assessed to ask whether they properly meet the needs of communities as they are today.

“We have the opportunity to think afresh about how we can create a more modern, fit-for-purpose justice system in line with the way we live our lives.”

The Huntingdon MP went on to say: “Not all disputes need to be resolved in court. I want to explore whether more people can resolve their disputes in a way that leads to faster and more satisfactory solutions.”

That could mean the police issuing more instant fines and more people giving evidence by videolink so they don’t have to physically attend court.

A consultation will also take place into Local Justice Areas to “allow magistrates to be deployed more flexibly”.

Those involved in the court service have until September 15 to respond to the Government’s plans. Lord Chancellor Ken Clarke will then make a final decision.

Fenland Magistrates’ Court currently opens on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for adult criminal cases.

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