Closing Aylesbury court ‘will have severe impact on access to justice”

Court (stock image)
Court (stock image)

The Law Society has condemned plans to close 91 courts and tribunals in England including Aylesbury Magistrates Court.

The society, which was responding to a Ministry of Justice consultation on the plans said that the move would halm the course of justice for those who cannot afford to pay for representation.

The response reads: “Closing Aylesbury Magistrates’ Court, County Court and Family Court would have a severe impact on access to justice for local people.

“There is no direct train between Aylesbury and Milton Keynes (the proposed The Law Society suggests an alternative to the government’s proposed closure).

“The travel time by rail would be 2.5 hours, involving a change in London. The cost of a return train ticket is £71.30 – completely out of financial reach for court users on low incomes or in receipt of welfare benefits.

“The journey would be even more expensive for court users who have to travel with children for family cases. Closing this court would be a serious below to access to justice in the local area, and leave many court users completely unable to afford to attend court.

“As set out in our main consultation response, longer, more expensive journeys could have a serious impact on the ability and willingness of victims, witnesses, defendants and jurors, particularly those on low incomes, to attend court.

“The Law Society recommends that Aylesbury Magistrates’ Court, County Court and Family Court remain open.”

Law Society president Jonathan Smithers said: “A majority of these proposed court closures will make it more difficult for a significant number people to get to court, and the closures will more adversely affect people living in rural areas, those with disabilities and lower income families.

“Combined with the further planned increases in court fees and reductions in eligibility for legal aid, many of the proposed closures will serve to deepen the inequalities in the justice system between those who can and cannot afford to pay.

“No matter who you are, no matter where you live, everyone in England and Wales must be able to access legal advice and the justice system.”

The society says that the option of re-allocating work from busy courts to courts that are currently under-used does not appear to have been considered.

It says that transferring cases from courts with backlogs of work and overly-long waiting times to those with spare capacity would represent an efficient use of the court estate.