Court closed after consultation sham

The doomed Spalding court.
The doomed Spalding court.

Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling closed Spalding Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday following a public consultation that was branded a “sham”.

The court was de-listed on December 19 – with all work sent to other courts – but the official closure is the final death blow.

Criminal Defence Associates Lawyer Rachel Stevens said the Lord Chancellor was only interested in achieving the outcome that suited the civil service.

Speaking on Tuesday, Miss Stevens said: “The consultation process has been a complete sham and a waste of time.

“The reasons given today for the decision to close the court are, verbatim, the arguments put forward by the court service when they asked for representations.

“I and many other people demonstrated in our responses how those arguments were absolutely untrue and yet the Minister has adopted them wholesale without reference to the enormous weight of evidence to the contrary. Ironic he is described as the Minister for Justice.

“He wasn’t interested in the truth, just in achieving the outcome that suited the civil service. It’s a sad day for democracy.”

Miss Stevens accompanied South Holland and The Deepings MP John Hayes at meetings in London with Mr Grayling in a campaign to save the court that was backed by solicitors, councillors and the Lincolnshire Free Press and Spalding Guardian.

Mr Hayes said on Tuesday: “I have gone to the very top to try to save this court, which is being closed as part of a wider programme of economies in the court service. The de-listing of the court – which was a decision taken by magistrates from Boston and Grantham – weakened the case made by South Holland people.”

The MP has won a consolation prize – a commitment from Mr Grayling to have witness facilities in Spalding so people don’t have to travel to other Lincolnshire courts – but there is no guarantee that it will be a video link in the now closed magistrates’ court as Mr Hayes would prefer.

Mr Hayes is also negotiating with the Lord Chancellor about the prospect of two leading Spalding charitable organisations using the court building instead of allowing it to stand empty as the old Boston court has for eight years.