GALLERY: Emotional ceremony marks the closure of Fenland Magistrates’ Court

WISBECH Courthouse closed its doors for the last time today, after magistrates bade a fond farewell “to a much loved friend who has met an untimely end.”

In an emotional ceremony before the day’s business began, magistrates, judges and various dignitaries gathered to mark the historic occasion.

The Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, Hugh Duberly, the High Sheriff of Cambridge in nomination, Richard Barnwell, and His Honour Judge Jonathan Howarth sat on the court dais with senior magistrates, while other magistrates, town mayors, and former magistrates packed into the jury box to watch the proceedings.

Since the proposed closure was announced by the Ministry of Justice, Fenland magistrates had put up a spirited fight to save the court, but were unable to save it.

Chairman of the bench, Margaret Angood, said: “It feels like we are gathered here to mark the passing of a much loved friend who has met an untimely end.

“The magistrates were opposed to the closure plan, and we made strong representations to retain this bench and its unique knowledge of the area.”

The court was officially opened in April 1957 by the Master of the Rolls, Rt Hon Lord Evershed, and it cost �108,000 to build, said Mrs Angood. At the time, the Wisbech Standard said: “This fine new edifice is a worthy addition to the town.”

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The building has been used as a Magistrates’ Court, Crown Court, Coroner’s Court and Youth Court, she said.

“We have also run open days, and hundreds of children have visited this building as part of an education day,” added Mrs Angood. “We feel that the character of the building adds to the dignity of the proceedings.”

The chairman thanked all who had contributed to the life of the court, from magistrates who have given their time, skills and local knowledge, to the clerks, ushers, and security staff.

On behalf of the Crown Prosecution Service, Scheherazade Haque said Fenland magistrates had been “an incredibly fair bench. “We know we get the right decisions at Wisbech courthouse,” she added. “Everyone at the CPS will look back to the court with fond memories and with a sense of loss, the closure will mean a great drain in local experience.”

On behalf of defence solicitors, John Clarke wondered what the future of the court would be: “The only thing they could use it for is a night club,” he said: “Unfortunately money rules today. It has been a privilege to work here as a criminal lawyer.”

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