A Derbyshire county councillor has condemned the Government’s proposed plans to close High Peak Magistrates’ Court in Buxton over fears people could be forced to endure lengthy journeys to get justice.
Councillor Caitlin Bisknell, who represents north and east Buxton, wants a rethink over moves to close the town’s magistrates’ and county court centre on Terrace Road.
The proposal by the Ministry of Justice would mean witnesses and defendants would be expected to travel to Northern Derbyshire Magistrates’ court in Chesterfield for cases to be heard.
Coun Bisknell said: “I have very serious concerns about these proposals which I believe are so flawed that they breach the Ministry’s own guidelines around access to justice. I know that local magistrates and voluntary groups share my concerns that closing the Buxton court will make it very difficult for residents to access justice.”
Coun Bisknell argued most people in the High Peak can get to the Buxton court in an hour by car or public transport, but if hearings moves to Chesterfield it could take people more than three hours by public transport including changing trains or buses.
The Government has proposed closing 91 courts including the Buxton court as part of plans to reform courts and tribunals in England and Wales. The courts earmarked for closure are deemed unused or under-used. Proposals have included people in rural locations accessing services or hearings through other civic and public buildings.
Coun Bisknell added: “As local magistrates have made clear the consultation paper paints a very misleading view of the facilities at Buxton court. While I understand there are concerns around disabled access, forcing people to travel to Chesterfield is not the answer. The Ministry’s document advocates courts being within an hour’s travelling time which should rule-out closing Buxton and moving its cases to Chesterfield. If the Buxton court has to close it would be far better to consider transferring its caseload to courts in the north west such as Stockport or Manchester, or Ashton for Glossopdale residents – all of which are easily accessible by public transport from High Peak.
“Ironically, to get to Chesterfield by public transport, many High Peak residents would have to travel via Stockport or Manchester.”
Those interested can submit comments as part of a consultation via the Ministry of Justice website: https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/proposal-on-the-provision-of-court-and-tribunal-es before an October 8 deadline.