Closure of magistrates' courts 'spells end of local justice'

Kettering Magistrates' Court
Image caption Kettering Magistrates' Court has closed as part of the government's plan

The closure of magistrates' courts spells the end of local justice, campaigners have said.

Kettering Magistrates' Court and Kettering County Court closed on Thursday, while Corby Magistrates' Court will close on Friday as part of government "modernisation" plans.

They are three of 86 courts that are to close across the country.

Many magistrates have said the move will lead to delays and more defendants failing to turn up to court.

'All wrong'

Corby sat two days of the week and Kettering sat four days of the week.

Cases heard at both courts are now set to be absorbed by magistrates in Wellingborough.

Image caption Corby Magistrates' Court will close on Friday

Terry Knights, chair of the magistrates' bench in Corby, said the closures were "all wrong".

He said: "The courts are busy. It affects the whole of Corby and East Northamptonshire - whether you are a court user or not.

"If you haven't got a court you do not get local justice."

Mr Knights, who said magistrates have already resigned from their posts because of the time it takes to get to Wellingborough by 9am, added that there will be an increase in the number of defendants not turning up for court cases because of the distance.

Jonathan Smithers, president of the Law Society, said the courts set for closure are well used and "every citizen... should have access to justice".

He added: "It shouldn't depend on how much money you have, whether you have your own car, whether you have to reply on public transport. Everyone should be able to use it."

A statement from the Ministry of Justice said the closures could save £500m a year and would be more efficient.

It read: "Access to justice is not just about proximity to a court and we are investing over £700 million to reform and digitise our courts and tribunal services to deliver swifter and more certain justice."

The statement added Corby and Kettering were both costly to maintain and some of the facilities inadequate.

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