Spalding’s court effectively closed on December 19 without the people who matter – South Holland residents – being asked if that was the right thing to happen.
Now you can have a say, and have your views presented to the Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling, by completing the form printed in today’s issue of The Lincolnshire Free Press.
We have joined forces with South Holland and The Deepings MP John Hayes to get The People’s Verdict on the future of the court.
Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) says it has had no complaints from the public since the court heard its last case, yet witnesses, people involved in family court hearings, and those accused of crime or motoring offences are travelling up 100 miles to appear at courts around the county in Lincoln, Grantham, Skegness and Boston.
Waiting times for hearings have almost doubled, there are overloaded lists in Boston and Lincoln, and prisoners are spending longer in custody.
HMCTS hasn’t spoken directly to people affected – when they could have easily put out questionnaires in court rooms – and is carrying out a token consultation online at www.justice.gov.uk/consultations
HMCTS has only de-listed the Spalding court – taken its work away – but is now asking the Secretary of State for Justice to shut it for good, formally slamming the door on 170 years of history.
Mr Hayes, local lawyers and councillors are fighting the closure, but it will take a public outcry – your backing – if they are to win the day.
The MP said: “Our towns and villages are what they are because of the services provided to local people in them.
“If those services are lost, not only does this cause people inconvenience it also alters the character of the place in which we live. There is no more fundamental service than access to justice.
“Magistrates have for generations linked the exercise of law to local communities and our magistrates’ courts really matter for that reason.
“I want to make sure that the people of South Holland keep what they have had for 170 years.
“If we don’t fight for these things, and just accept their closure, in the end what services will remain?”
HMCTS claims it will save £40,000 by closing the court, but has kept quiet about the likely cost of maintaining the closed court – some £50,000 a year. The court’s identical twin in Boston has remained empty and unsold for eight years costing taxpayers £400,000.
• Your completed forms will be presented by Mr Hayes to Mr Grayling.