Skegness Magistrates’ Court will be closed by September the Ministry of Justice has said today (Thursday) – with cases potentially heading to Boston.
The town’s court, which is based on Park Avenue, joins Grantham and 84 other courts to close.
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, Minister for the Courts and Legal Aid, Shailesh Vara said in a statement today that the Government had been investing £700 million in its court and tribunal estate – including ‘installing modern IT systems and making the justice system more efficient and effective for modern users’.
However, he said many of the current 460 court buildings are ‘underused’ quoting that ‘last year 48% of all courts and tribunals were empty for at least half their available hearing time’.
He said: “These buildings are expensive to maintain yet unsuitable for modern technology.
“Court closures are difficult decisions; local communities have strong allegiances to their local courts and I understand their concerns. But changes to the estate are vital if we are to modernise a system which everybody accepts is unwieldy, inefficient, slow, expensive to maintain and unduly bureaucratic.”
In a report on the Midlands closures, HM Courts & Tribunals Service said it would look to relocate any useable equipment into other buildings to create further efficiencies.
It proposed moving prison court video link equipment currently located in Grantham and Skegness to Boston and Lincoln if required.
It produced quotes from consultation on the closures, including one judiciary which said: “In the large rural county of Lincolnshire reduction to two hearing centres with consequent issues as to travel time and affordability is unacceptable. However underused dedicated court buildings in Grantham and Skegness are a luxury.
“For County Court work, where secure facilities are not needed, sittings can and should take place in a suitable part of another public building.”
Other comments from the Lincolnshire County Bench Management Team and Magistrates’s Association said: “There will be a noticeable impact on attendance times at court if Grantham and Stamford Officers are travelling to Lincoln and Skegness officers are travelling to Boston court (in reference to Lincolnshire Police).
“In times of reduced staffing numbers this will require careful and detailed planning as regards the minimum staffing levels and the ability to maintain an effective response capability to our communities.”
According to the report 24 responses were recieved to the Skegness consultation with one in support, 20 opposed and three neutral.
In its decision the report said: “All the points raised by respondents to the consultation have been analysed and following careful consideration, the Lord Chancellor has decided to close Skegness Magistrates’ Court and move the workload to Boston Magistrates’ Court, County Court and Family Court hearing centre.”
The Skegness Court has been scheduled to close between July and September 2016.
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