Berkshire

Youth workers oppose Newbury Magistrates Court closure

A youth offending team claims closing a Berkshire magistrates court could lead to young people missing court appearances.

The Ministry of Justice is conducting a review across the Thames Valley in a bid to reduce the number of underused and unsuitable magistrate courts.

One of its options is to close Newbury Magistrates Court in West Berkshire.

Davy Pearson, who runs the West Berkshire Youth Offending Team, said that she was "extremely concerned".

Court delays

"One impact would be that young people and parents who have to attend the youth courts would have to travel much further than they do presently to go to Newbury, " she said.

"They would have to leave somewhere like Inkpen at 0710 BST to get to the Reading court for 0930 BST," she said.

Ms Pearson said the cost and time taken to attend distant courts could deter many young offenders from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds from turning up, which could lead to an increase in arrests and greater costs for the criminal justice system.

Bob King, of West Berkshire Citizens Advice Bureau, said moving the court from Newbury to Reading or Oxfordshire would make it harder for the organisation to help people.

"We won't have the resources to accompany defendants or witnesses to court in Reading," he said.

Rural area

Jenny Verity, magistrate and chair of the West Berkshire bench said the Newbury Court was well used and Reading would not have the capacity to take on the extra workload if it closed.

Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors at West Berkshire Council have joined forces to unanimously oppose any proposed move of the magistrates court from Newbury.

A spokesperson for Her Majesty's Court Service said: "Spending money to keep underused and unsuitable courts open where there is no business need is not fair to taxpayers or to users of the court if it means they will receive an inferior service.

"The number and location of courts must reflect changes in population, transport and communication links and meet the expectation of our 21st Century communities."

A consultation into which courts should be closed is under way and will end on 15 September.

More on this story

Around the BBC

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites