A lawyer is calling for an independent public inquiry to look at plans to close Spalding Magistrates’ Court before “this vital service is lost forever”.
Rachel Stevens, from Criminal Defence Associates, made the plea in her response to Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service’s (HMCTS) official consultation, which ended on Tuesday.
Miss Stevens has twice joined South Holland and The Deepings MP John Hayes to fight the court closure at meetings in London with Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling, who will decide the court’s fate following a recommendation from HMCTS.
Since December 19, when the Spalding court was de-listed, witnesses and defendants from South Holland, Bourne and The Deepings have travelled to courts in Lincoln, Grantham, Boston and Skegness.
Family cases are heard in Lincoln, which means people in outlying villages like Sutton Bridge have a 100-mile round trip for a hearing.
HMCTS claims it will save £40,000 by closing the court and that costly works are needed to make the building fit for purpose.
But opponents dispute the supposed savings, as other services are picking up the tab, and say it will cost £50,000 a year to maintain an empty building and there’s no need to spend significant sums to keep it open.
Miss Stevens said the relatively small saving of £40,000 saving should be weighed against the “devastating impact” its de-listing has had on courts taking Spalding’s workload and the delays in cases being listed and heard.
Spalding East and Moulton county councillor Richard Fairman said of the HMCTS consultation paper: “I have never seen an official document so full of lies and half truths. A saving that imposes costs on others is robbery.”
• HMCTS is preparing a response to the consultation.