Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Cardigan Magistrates Court Blow

The news is coming through this week that Cardigan Court is set to close under HMRCs rationalisation programme.

This is a real blow to the town after a strong campaign led by local residents, Cardigan Town Council and Ceredigion County Council to keep our court open.

The closure of the court was proposed under the original plans, announced in July, but the Lord Chief Justice recommended that Cardigan, along with a number of other courts in Wales should stay open.

However, the Conservative Courts Minister Jonathan Djanogly confirmed in an oral statement yesterday that Cardigan would be among the courts closing.

Ceredigion’s MP Mark Williams has rightly expressed his dismay at the decision. He has campaigned against the closure, securing a Westminster debate, and making a submission to the consultation.

He said:

“This decision is a huge blow, and I don’t think considerations of the distance to be travelled and poor public transport links have been fully taken into account. People from Cardigan and the surrounding area will not be able to get to the courts in Aberystwyth and Haverfordwest for the start of the morning, and many will be severely inconvenienced.

“The Government are right to be considering where savings can be made in the Courts Estate, but the Lord Chief Justice rightly argued that plans to close the court are unfeasible because of the long distances to the alternatives.

“I fear that access to justice in the south of Ceredigion will be impaired by this decision, and there will be knock-on implications for legal services in Cardigan.

“If the Government are going to close court buildings, they must give more serious consideration to the Magistrates Association’s suggestion of mobile justice in non-court buildings to give people the opportunity of local justice.”

The arguments that Mark Williams makes are clear. In such a rural area as ours, the closure of our Magistrates Court would threaten the opportunities that local residents have to access their justice system.

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