Spalding may get a video link so people can give evidence on oath to far away courts following the de-listing of the town’s Victorian courthouse.
The Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling, has ordered Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service to run a feasibility study on the camera following protests about local access to justice with people now forced to travel to courthouses in Boston, Grantham, Skegness and Lincoln.
South Holland and The Deepings MP John Hayes, lawyers and civic leaders have mounted a concerted campaign to reverse the de-listing – which they say is closure in all but name – because defendants and witnesses are travelling too far to have their day in court.
Mr Hayes learned of the feasibility study in a letter from the Lord Chancellor.
The MP said: “We have not won the war, but I think this is an important step forward.”
Mr Hayes said the Lord Chancellor would not have ordered a feasibility study on a court video link if he felt it appropriate for people to travel big distances to far away courts.
The MP is seeking more information on the video link – how it may be used and where it may be sited – in advance of face-to-face talks with the Lord Chancellor in a few weeks’ time.
Mr Hayes revealed Coun Nick Worth has been looking at potential bases for the video link in the town’s public buildings, but the MP’s preference is the courthouse, which heard its last cases on December 19. He said: “My principal concern is access to justice.
“Spalding needs to have an appropriate level of service in terms of access to the delivery of justice.
“If the Lord Chancellor thought the existing arrangements were appropriate, he would not be initiating a feasibility study on different arrangements.”
The MP says it is simply not good enough to close Spalding Magistrates’ Court and leave it at that – and he believes the Lord Chancellor’s move is “an important acknowledgment of the strength of our argument”.
People in outlying areas of South Holland, such as Sutton Bridge, face journey times of 12 or more hours to get to and from hearings in Lincoln.