SPALDING Magistrates’ Court is again facing the threat of closure – this time because its cells may no longer be deemed fit to receive prisoners.
The custody suite has been temporarily closed for a health and safety assessment.
Campaigners including magistrates, solicitors and MP John Hayes celebrated victory in December 2010 following a battle to save the court from Government financial cuts.
They argued that a trek to the court at Grantham would be too far for witnesses and defendants – and won the backing of the nation’s top judge, Lord Justice Goldring, who said plans to shut the building were “unacceptable”.
The then chairman of the Elloes Bench, Richard Spinks, was at the forefront of the campaign.
Mr Spinks – who sits on the successor South Lincolnshire Bench – believes health and safety concerns are a back door way of shutting the court.
He said: “Quite honestly, I feel with the higher management of Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service, it is a case of if we can’t get them one way, we will get them another way.”
Mr Spinks said thousands of pounds were spent renovating the court in 2002 and it was hailed then as a model of how a Victorian building could be brought up to 21st Century standards.
He says the body that inspects the courts is unhappy with the cells and the winding staircase from the cells up to the court.
And the inspectors don’t like prisoners being “overlooked” as they walk between the G4S van and the Spalding courthouse when they are driven straight inside more modern courts.
Mr Spinks said the inspectors are also criticising Lincoln Crown Court for sitting inside a Norman castle.
He feels the higher management of the courts’ service want Lincolnshire to have one massive modern court at Lincoln and everything to go there.
Mr Spinks said: “I think that’s somebody’s real agenda if they were honest and spoke the truth.”
A courts’ service spokeman said: “The custody suite at Spalding Magistrates’ Court has been temporarily closed so that a health and safety assessment of the accommodation can be carried out.
“Remand cases have been transferred to Lincoln Magistrates’ Court while the health and safety assessment is being made.”
The spokesman added: “No decisions have been made as to next steps.”