DCSIMG

Last ditch fight for ‘access to justice’

DOORS SHUT: Spalding Magistrates Court was de-listed  closed in all but name  in December. Lawyers Mike Alexander, Julie Atkinson, Anita Toal and Daven Naghen were among those warning in May about its potential fate. SG030513-119TW

DOORS SHUT: Spalding Magistrates Court was de-listed  closed in all but name  in December. Lawyers Mike Alexander, Julie Atkinson, Anita Toal and Daven Naghen were among those warning in May about its potential fate. SG030513-119TW

MP John Hayes is leading a last-ditch bid to restore local access to justice for South Holland people who are now forced to travel to Lincoln, Grantham or Boston for court hearings.

Spalding Magistrates’ Court was mothballed on December 19 after Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service spent much of last year stripping its work away – the motoring court, the family court, the youth court and finally the adult criminal court.

The South Holland and The Deepings MP and solicitor Rachel Stevens, acting as his legal adviser, met Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling at the Ministry of Justice on Monday.

The MP will now spend a further six weeks working with solicitors, police and South Holland District Council to “collaboratively summarise our case about listings, the future of the court and access to justice” before seeing the Lord Chancellor again.

Mr Hayes said it’s not acceptable for constituents to travel to hearings so far away.

He said: “It’s bad enough getting to Grantham from Spalding, let alone from Gedney Hill or Sutton St James or Sutton Bridge.

“He (the Lord Chancellor) was very impressed by the access to justice argument, particularly in the case of witnesses, and we explored the possibility of a video link system where people would not have to travel long distances.”

Solicitors warned last May that the Spalding court was under threat because the courts service questioned the safety of stairs from the cells to the dock, but the Lord Chancellor told Mr Hayes the main concern was fire safety – something that’s not been publicly aired before.

The MP says the Lord Chancellor has agreed to “look at the whole matter again”.

Mr Hayes said: “A window of opportunity is how I would describe it – I can’t guarantee what the outcome will be, but we are fighting hard. I am grateful for the work of the local solicitors who are working with me.”

 

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