‘Death sentence’ for court

Spalding Magistrates Court
Spalding Magistrates Court
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A youth left unsupervised for three hours while awaiting being committed to custody has resulted in a “death sentence” being served on Spalding Magistrates’ Court.

Solicitors fear the end is imminent after being told the Youth Court is moving to Grantham from next week.

Family cases were moved to Grantham in April and adult prisoners have not been dealt with at Spalding since health and safety issues over use of the cells.

For now, Thursday’s adult court at the sessions house will continue.

Anita Toal, managing partner of Maples Solicitors, said the loss of the Youth Court was a further example of the moves being made to shift work away from Spalding.

She said: “It’s a death sentence. The family work has already been transferred to Grantham.

“It is often the case that I appear at Grantham on a family case where both parents are from Spalding, both solicitors are from Spalding and all three magistrates are from Spalding and yet Spalding Magistrates’ Court is empty.

“I have no doubt this is all being done to ultimately justify the closure of Spalding Magistrates’ Court on the basis that it does not handle enough work.”

Solicitors received a letter from Mark Chamberlain, West Lincolnshire deputy justices’ clerk, informing them of the closure of the youth court last week.

It stated: “The decision was as a result of an incident whereby a youth committed to custody had to wait a number of hours to be collected by SERCO.

“The magistrates were understandably concerned that a young person was left unsupervised and unsupported in this situation.”

Solicitor Mike Alexander, of Criminal Defence Associates, described the situation as “a complete farce”.

He said: “There is no reason the cells could not have been used for that youth. The health and safety issue was with the steps from the adult court and they would not have needed to be used.

“The decision was made purely on financial grounds and is a blatant attempt to get rid of Spalding Court. How long will it take before we are told it is uneconomic to run it one day a week?”

On behalf of the area’s solicitors, Anita Toal has called on MP John Hayes, who joined lawyers and magistrates to save the court in 2010, to intervene.

Mr Hayes told the Spalding Guardian: “We saved it before and I have already asked for an urgent response from the Court Service.

“I do not want to see the gradual erosion and closure of the court in Spalding.

“This situation has not come from the Government.”

An HMCTS spokesperson said: “Due to a fall in workload and the lack of appropriate facilities for dealing with young defendants there, the Justice Issues Group for Lincolnshire has decided not to list youth cases at Spalding Magistrates’ Court with immediate effect.

“These cases will now be listed at Grantham Magistrates’ Court.

“The listing arrangements will be kept under review.”