Suffolk County Councillors rather uncharacteristically reached unanimous agreement today – that the Ministry of Justice’s proposed closure of Suffolk law courts (Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft) leaving us with just the facilities in Ipswich, are a bad thing and should be opposed.
In brief, it is proposed that:
a) Lowestoft Magistrates’ Court, County Court and Family Court is closed and the civil hearing work move to Great Yarmouth (Magistrates’ Court and Family Court), the family hearing work to Ipswich (Magistrates’ Court and Family Court)., and the criminal work move to Great Yarmouth (Magistrates’ Court and Family Court) and Norwich (Magistrates’ Court and Family Court).
b) that Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ Court and Family Court and Bury St Edmunds Crown Court are closed, and the existing magistrates’ and family workload be moved to Ipswich (Magistrates’ Court and Family Court) and Norwich (Magistrates’ Court and Family Court). It is also proposed that victim and witness facilities will be installed at Bury St. Edmunds County Court and Tribunals which would enable court users, in suitable matters, to give evidence by video link!
All to save £600,000 a year. Truly this government knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
It is 800 years exactly since the rights of the common people in England were asserted through Magna Carta. The 39th clause of which , still part of British law today, says:
“No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.”
Putting aside anxieties about ‘trial by video’ , it would seem particularly ironic that Suffolk’s legal representation is in danger of being reduced to one single court with all the difficulties of access from the west , mid-Suffolk and the north of the county, in this iconic anniversary year . (I was going to speak to this motion on these lines) when Cllr Joanna Spicer took the very words out of my mouth, quote and all. Two minds with but a single thought and all that..)
You may not know of this consultation – although it has been going on since July. This is because the Ministry of Justice in its wisdom has classified Suffolk as part of the South East. However, here is the link (tip- don’t wade through all the pages, search in document for ‘Suffolk’ and it will tell you about the two proposals that affect us) – do please respond to the consultation and give your thoughts. Oddly enough, the one bit of the whole document that is squeezed for space is the one that asks for your views. But please don’t let it stop you!