Thursday, 16 July 2015

91 Courts get the Chop

Whilst probation staff in CRC's are still trying to come to terms with the threat of redundancies, there's bad news for many NPS staff based in courts as a further 91 face closure throughout England and Wales. 

It pretty much signals the end of any concept of 'local justice' and must surely be further hastening the demise of the age-old unpaid judiciary? I especially love this bit that admirably demonstrates how out of touch Tory toffs are with the reality of public transport, together with the financial circumstances of most probation clients and possible court appearances:-
"He said that after the changes, more than 95% of citizens would still be able to reach their required court within an hour by car."
This from the BBC website:-
The government is consulting on plans to close 91 courts and tribunals in England and Wales. The aim is to reduce what Justice Secretary Michael Gove has identified as "surplus capacity". Courts under threat include 57 magistrates' courts, 19 county courts, two crown courts, four tribunal hearing centres and nine combined courts.

Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service operates 460 courts and tribunal hearing centres. The government has also announced it is "integrating" a further 31 tribunals in England and Wales.

'Difficult decisions'

In a written statement, the parliamentary under-secretary of state for courts and legal aid, Shailesh Vara, said the service's estate was "underused" and cost the taxpayer about £500m every year. He said better access to justice could only be provided if "difficult decisions" were taken to reduce the cost of the estate and reinvest the savings.

"Last year over a third of all courts and tribunals were empty for more than 50% of their available hearing time," he said. "The buildings being consulted on represent 16% of hearing rooms across the estate which are, on average, used for only a third of their available time. "That is equivalent to fewer than two out of five days in a week."

Online conferencing

Technology such as video, telephone and online conferencing would reduce the need for face-to-face hearings, which should be reserved for "the most sensitive or complex cases", Mr Vara said. In rural locations, public buildings, such as town halls, could be used for hearings instead of "underused, poorly-maintained permanent courts", he suggested.

He said that after the changes, more than 95% of citizens would still be able to reach their required court within an hour by car.

The Public and Commercial Services union, which represents many court workers, said the proposals would restrict access to justice. It promised to challenge the Ministry of Justice's method for calculating underuse of courtrooms. General Secretary Mark Serwotka said: "With courts closures and cuts to legal aid, access to justice has been significantly restricted by the previous government and now this one. "We do not believe it is in the interests of justice to leave our communities without easy access to courthouses and tribunals."

The consultation will run for 12 weeks until 8 October.

A full list of the courts affected:


Bow County Court

Feltham Magistrates' Court

Greenwich Magistrates' Court

Hammersmith County Court (formerly West London County Court)

Lambeth County Court

Pocock Street Tribunal Hearing Centre

Richmond-upon-Thames Magistrates' Court

Tottenham Magistrates' Court

Waltham Forest Magistrates' Court

Woolwich County Court


Birmingham Youth Court

Burton-upon-Trent Magistrates' Court

Buxton Magistrates' and County Court

Corby Magistrates' Court

Grantham Magistrates' Court

Hinckley Magistrates' Court

Kettering County Court

Kettering Magistrates' Court

Sandwell Magistrates' Court

Shrewsbury Magistrates' Court

Skegness Magistrates' Court

Solihull Magistrates' Court

Stafford Magistrates' Court

Worksop Magistrates' Court

North East

Consett Magistrates' Court

Halifax County Court and Family Court

Halifax (Calderdale) Magistrates' and Family Court

Hartlepool Magistrates' Court and County Court

Morpeth County Court

Rotherham Magistrates' Court, County Court and Family Court

Scunthorpe Magistrates' Court, County Court and Family Court

Wakefield Magistrates' Court

North West

Accrington County Court

Accrington Magistrates' Court

Bolton County Court and Family Court

Bury Magistrates' Court and County Court

Kendal Magistrates' Court and County Court

Macclesfield County Court

Macclesfield Magistrates' Court

Oldham County Court

Oldham Magistrates' Court

Ormskirk Magistrates' Court and Family Court

Runcorn (Halton) Magistrates' Court

St Helens Magistrates' Court and County Court

Stockport Magistrates' Court and County Court

Tameside County Court

Trafford Magistrates' Court and Altrincham County Court

Warrington County Court

West Cumbria Magistrates' Court and County Court

South East

Aylesbury Magistrates' Court, County Court and Family Court

Basildon Social Security and Child Support Tribunal (Acorn House)

Bedford and Mid Beds Magistrates' Court and Family Court and Bedford County Court and Family Court

Bicester Magistrates' Court and Family Court

Bury St. Edmunds Magistrates' Court and Family Court and Bury St. Edmunds Crown Court

Chichester Combined Court (Crown and County)

Chichester Magistrates' Court

Colchester County Court and Family Court

Colchester County Court Offices

Dartford Magistrates' Court

Dover Magistrates' Court

Eastbourne Magistrates' Court, County Court and Family Court

Harlow Magistrates' Court

Kings Lynn County Court and Family Court

Lowestoft Magistrates' Court, County Court and Family Court

Redhill Magistrates' Court and Family Court and Reigate County Court and Family Court

St Albans County Court

Tunbridge Wells County Court and Family Court

Watford Magistrates' Court and Family Court

West Berkshire (Newbury) Magistrates' Court

South West

Barnstaple Crown Court

Bath Magistrates' Court, County Court and Family Court or North Avon (Yate) Magistrates' Court

Bournemouth Magistrates' Court

Cheltenham Rivershill House Tribunal

Chippenham Magistrates' Court, Civil Court and Family Court

Dorchester Crown Court

Fareham Magistrates' Court

Gloucester Magistrates' Court

North Avon (Yate) Magistrates' Court or Bath Magistrates' Court, County Court and Family Court

Stroud Magistrates' Court

Torquay Magistrates' Court


Brecon Law Courts

Bridgend Law Courts

Carmarthen Civil, Family, Tribunal and Probate Hearing Centre

Carmarthen Law Courts (The Guildhall)

Dolgellau Crown and Magistrates' Court

Holyhead Magistrates' Court

Llangefni Civil and Family Court

Neath and Port Talbot Civil and Family Court

Pontypridd Magistrates' Court

Prestatyn Magistrates' Court


  1. Probation Officer16 July 2015 at 19:40

    So while the CRC's get shafted from the front the NPS gets it in the back. This is the start of the Tory/Gove scorched earth policy for the 'justice' system.

    Did I miss Napo speaking about this on prime time news? Just pulling your leg, we know nowadays Napo only cranks up to speak about about check-off!

    1. In my opinion Napo hasn't had a credible media operation since Harry Fletcher's departure, but of course Napo won an award last year, so it just shows how out of touch I must be.

    2. What you being polite about ? Taken a job in a role she has zero appropriate experience for hardly ever seen never actually heard. Not considered effective and from what I read and have seen is a bit of GS video phile side kick. Gets paid a massive subs funded salary for nothing notable or obvious. Any Napo Press an PR relations news bulletins or public statement from them ........................... Er None ! Says it all really and lets all be clear here NAPO knew this news was coming today so its not like they could not have helped the trainee get at least a few little lines out while our colleagues face the sack and no compensation . Great PR Napo

    3. Ah shal say zis ownly wunce...

    4. "Says it all really and lets all be clear here NAPO knew this news was coming today so its not like they could not have helped the trainee get at least a few little lines out while our colleagues face the sack and no compensation. Great PR Napo."

      Perhaps she's on leave?

    5. Probably. Just like last time!

  2. The Court Closures are likely to get attention from members of parliament because they will have a constituency focus and not to be seen campaigning for facilities within one's own constituency may have electoral consequences.

    Just maybe, the probation unions locally can gain publicity by associating with those who will undoubtedly seek to defend the continuance of their local courts as has happened since courts began to be closed over at least twenty years, because with better road links, and the expense of making existing facilities viable (custody suites etc) it was financially expedient to centralise so called 'local' courts, even though most Magistrates' Courts (that do not routinely deal with custody cases) need very basic physical facilities - with mobile technology - they may not even need much in the way of fixed IT equipment.

    However, the courts business will be a side issue for some due to the 'severance' decisions being needed urgently - one way or the other.

    I have nothing constructive to say - it all seems very grim for probation and probation workers right now.

  3. so sad, i'm just thinking of potential job losses

  4. "He said that after the changes, more than 95% of citizens would still be able to reach their required court within an hour by car."

    That may well be the case but from experience I would say that 95% probably don't have access to a car to get to the new nearest court centre.

    1. Maybe he means they should be able to steal them to get to court!


    " Gove is billed to make a major speech on prisons and probation policy on Friday (17th July 2015) but he gave a clear hint in his first session before the justice select committee that he would like to see an expansion of the use of community penalties by the courts. "

    If you know when and where please enlighten us.

    1. From Napo Forum - I have found out a bit more: -

  6. if st Helens closes the only Merseyside courts left will be Liverpool mags and Sefton Mags - both are about 15 miles away but difficult to get to on public transport. Having said that Southport Mags closed a few yrs back and all business moved 17 miles away to Sefton and it's worked out ok but some obvious warrants issued purely because clients cant get from a to b

    1. I am not looking at the courts closure list but maybe St Helen's cases will go to a Greater Manchester Court not a Merseyside one - there was no real good reason - of which I am aware that St Helens became part of the Merseyside rather than GMC metropolis. when it was first removed from South West Lancs back in 1974 & I suspect that at least for some Manchester is more accessible than God's Holy City.

  7. Using the list above Cumbria, 2nd largest English county by area @ 2,613 miles, will be left with two magistrates' courts - Carlisle in the North & Barrow-in-Furness to the South, although many argue Barrow is still in Lancs. They're about 90 miles distant from each other, just over 2 hours' drive using the M6. Kendal to Carlisle is about 1 hour by car, and to Barrow also about an hour. But Egremont is over an hour to either court. Borrowdale to Barrow is nearly 2 hours; and to Carlisle its easily over an hour. But these are AA route timings for car drivers.

    Public transport? Not a chance.

  8. BBC NEWS... Prison education must improve, Michael Gove says:

    1. Education in prisons must be overhauled in order to tackle a "persistent failure to reduce re-offending", the justice secretary is to say.

      Michael Gove will stress in a speech that helping prisoners become literate and numerate makes them "employable".
      Mr Gove will suggest "earned release" for inmates who work hard on their education, and propose giving governors more autonomy.
      The Prison Governors Association welcomed the proposals.
      However, it also raised concerns about how changes would work in practice.

      Earlier this week, chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick said the government's "rehabilitation revolution", launched five years ago at the outset of the coalition, had not even started.
      He said in his last annual report that prisons were in their worst state for a decade and some jails were "places of violence, squalor and idleness".

      In his first speech on the issue since being appointed as justice secretary in May, Mr Gove is expected to say that society is collectively to blame for the failure to "redeem and rehabilitate" offenders, and he will call for an end to the "idleness and futility" of prison life.

      The justice secretary says he wants to look at "earned release" for offenders who are committed to education and gain qualifications that are respected by employers. If prisons moved to such a system, it would be a major change from the current policy under which most prisoners are automatically released on licence at the halfway point of their sentence.

      Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: "The challenge now is to translate this marked new reflective tone set by the Justice Secretary into sensible policy and to create a just, humane and effective penal system."

      "No government serious about building one nation, no minister concerned with greater social justice, can be anything other than horrified by our persistent failure to reduce re-offending," Mr Gove is expected to say at the event in London, hosted by the Prisoner Learning Alliance. "In prisons there is a - literally - captive population whose inability to read properly or master basic mathematics makes them prime candidates for re-offending.
      "Ensuring those offenders become literate and numerate makes them employable and thus contributors to society, not a problem for our communities. "The failure to teach our prisoners a proper lesson is indefensible. I fear the reason for that is, as things stand, we do not have the right incentives for prisoners to learn or for prison staff to prioritise education. And that's got to change."
      Mr Gove is also expected to use the speech to propose giving governors more control and rewarding them if offenders do well.
      He will say that one of the "biggest brakes on progress" in all prisons is the "lack of operational autonomy and genuine independence enjoyed by governors" - who are often set very tight criteria on how prison life should be managed. "Yet we know from other public services - from the success of foundation hospitals and academy schools - that operational freedom for good professionals drives innovation and improvement. So we should explore how to give governors greater freedom - and one of the areas ripest for innovation must be prison education."

    2. Yes because if a prisoner learns the 3R's they are no longer a risk to the public. It will be important to give responsibility to prison goveners who have no clue about risk, more autonomy to release prisoners based on their progress in the classroom. Thank goodness someone's finally got this right. Three cheers for Michael Give! Hip-hip!

    3. *prison governors*

    4. Foolish if you do not think many prisoner are not well qualified ? Big assumption about Governors I haver known a few, they have been very mindful and well skilled . It is a counter productive argument to release as people get smarter in education sort of defeats the object on the simple assumption you make. It will all depend on the sentence duration and term intake. Why would you cheer the Tories do you need a civics class to educate your political naivety.