SPALDING Magistrates’ Court has been saved from the threat of closure – leaving campaigners celebrating their success.
The court had been put under consultation by the coalition Government, who said that cases could have been taken on by Grantham, but was saved by ministers and was not among the 142 that will shut across the country.
Magistrates and solicitors were joined by MP John Hayes, councillors, this newspaper and the public in calling for the court to stay. They were also boosted by Lord Justice Goldring, the nation’s top judge, who said that the plans to shut the building were “unacceptable”.
Campaigners argued that the trek to Grantham would be too far for witnesses and defendants – especially those reliant on public transport – and argued that the court was a vital part of the town from both a justice and heritage perspective - with money spent on restoration in recent years.
Chairman of Elloes Magistrates Richard Spinks said: “We are absolutely over the moon. We made a considered submission that bought up the issue of travel, of justice in south Lincolnshire and the effect it would have had on witnesses. We are very pleased.”
Spalding solicitor Mike Alexander said he was delighted that campaigners’ arguments were heard.
He said: “I believe local justice is vital. A court system needs to be accessible to witnesses and victims of crime.
“The magistrates, who decide upon trials, ought to have some knowledge of the area and therefore issues that the witnesses talk about.
“It gives them a better understanding of the facts and therefore a greater chance of affording justice to all parties. Surely justice is what a court system is all about.
“So my professional head admires the way the system heard arguments and recognised the force of them. I am humbled by the vocal support by all parties. My personal head simply says ‘Yee ha, come on! What next?’.”
MP Hayes lobbied fellow Government ministers on the issue and hailed the decision as “great news”.
Mr Hayes said: “It was an effective campaign between all the people involved.
“It would have been a massive blow for Spalding if it had gone. It is not just the facility that would have been lost – it would also have left a big hole in the town.
“There were pretty strong arguments on travel and the investment made. Clearly the people in power listened.
“It is not easy at a time when reductions are being made and good cases are made from different places but you have to weigh up and judge these things.
“I think right has prevailed. They have listened to the argument and have clearly produced the result we wanted.”