The Ministry of Justice is consulting on the future of courts services in the North West of England. (Similar consultations are happening throughout the country.)
The proposals as they stand are that a large number of courts would close, with their work transferred to a smaller number of courts (e.g. Manchester). Courts proposed for closure include both Bury Magistrates and County Courts, and also the County Court at Bolton, and both Courts in Oldham.
We are being invited to have our say on this consultation by 18 November 2015. Details of how members of the public can have their say are at the bottom of this post. The Lib Dem team of councillors will also make a submission on this consultation, based on your views.
I suspect all of us understand that public services are being asked to make significant ‘savings’ (more announced by the Chancellor yesterday). Our view is that it is important to balance this with the need for people to be able to fairly access justice and the justice system.
The below information is from the Ministry of Justice. The full document is here.
Proposals for Bury Courts
Bury Magistrates’ Court and County Court are located in one building at Bury Courthouse. They are one of eight magistrates’ and eight county courts in Greater Manchester. The magistrates’ court deals with criminal court business in adult and youth courts and the county court deals with civil work and some family work. The court has ten hearing rooms and courtroom use is low.
It is proposed that Bury Magistrates’ Court and County Court are closed and that the workload of Bury Magistrates’ Court be transferred to Manchester and Salford Magistrates’ Court, where enabling works will be required to extend accommodation for witnesses. Bury Magistrates’ Court is the only court in the Bury and Rochdale local justice area. Should this proposal go ahead the Judicial Business Group (JBG) would undertake local stakeholder engagement to consider the need for the merger of Local Justice Areas.
It is proposed that the workload of Bury County Court be transferred to Manchester County Court, located within the Manchester Civil Justice Centre. Enabling works will be required to provide additional hearing rooms and judicial and staff accommodation.
Bury County Court was proposed for closure in 2010 as part of the Court Estate Reform Programme. The decision to retain Bury County Court was made on the basis that the Bury Courthouse was remaining open and there was sufficient space to accommodate the county court at that time. The current proposal is to release under used court buildings and to close the courthouse in Bury.
Greater Manchester is a compact conurbation with the majority of its courts being located within nine miles of Manchester city centre. Greater Manchester benefits from an excellent public transport infrastructure comprising an extensive modern tram system (Metrolink), bus and rail services.
The proposed closure of Altrincham, Bolton, Bury, Macclesfield, Oldham, Stockport, Tameside and Warrington County Courts would enable the Manchester Civil Justice Centre to be fully used. The closure of Bury, Stockport and Trafford Magistrates’ Courts will enable the purpose built Manchester and Salford Magistrates’ Court to be fully used. This will enable the release of under used court buildings in Greater Manchester.
Manchester County Court and Manchester and Salford Magistrates’ Court are both located in the centre of the city. They are modern and purpose built buildings with excellent facilities.
Should Bury Magistrates’ Court and County Court close it will enable the work to be moved to larger venues and allow the receiving courts to be more responsive and flexible with the listing of cases, meeting user and workflow demands more effectively. An improved service will be delivered with courts being used more efficiently.
Bury Magistrates’ Court and County Court is located in one building. The building was constructed as a purpose built magistrates’ court and complies with the Equality Act 2010. There are ten courtrooms, of which, eight are magistrates’ courtrooms and two county court hearing rooms.
Manchester and Salford Magistrates’ Court and Manchester Civil Justice Centre are both centrally located and are modern, purpose built venues with excellent facilities including interview rooms for private consultations, disabled access and toilets, baby changing rooms, video conferencing and prison video link equipment, a loop hearing system, wireless internet access and a coffee shop.
During the 2014/15 financial year, Bury Courthouse was utilised at approximately 51% of its capacity.
Bury Courthouse is located nine miles from both Manchester and Salford Magistrates’ Court and Manchester Civil Justice Centre. Bury is well served by public transport. There is a frequent local bus service and the Metrolink has a direct route to Manchester city centre.
Travel by Metrolink takes approximately 25 minutes and costs £6.10 for a peak time return. Travel by bus takes approximately one hour and costs £4.20 for a day ticket. The journey time by car is approximately 35 minutes.
There are 55 members of staff based at Bury Magistrates’ Court and County Court.
Bury Courthouse is a freehold building.
The 2014/15 operating costs of this venue was approximately £528,000.
Bury Courthouse is used one day per week to accommodate tribunal hearings. Should Bury Courthouse close arrangements will be made for this work to be heard elsewhere.
Responding to the Consultation
We would welcome responses to the following questions.
Question 1. Do you agree with the proposals? What overall comments would you like to make on the proposals?
Question 2. Will the proposals for the provision of court and tribunal services have a direct impact on you? If yes, please provide further details.
Question 3. Are there other particular impacts of the proposals that HM Courts & Tribunals Service should take into account when making a decision? Please provide details.
Question 4. Our assessment of the likely impacts and supporting analysis is set out in the Impact Assessment accompanying this consultation. Do you have any comments on the evidence used or conclusions reached? Please provide any additional evidence that you believe could be helpful.
Question 5. Are there alternatives to travelling to a physical building that would be a benefit to some users? These could include using technology to engage remotely or the use of other, civic or public buildings for hearings as demand requires. Please explain your answer, with specific examples and evidence of the potential demand for the service where possible.
Question 6. Please provide any additional comments that you have.
Please use this section to tell us about yourself
Job title or capacity in which you are responding to this consultation exercise (e.g. member of the public etc.)
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If you are a representative of a group, please tell us the name of the group and give a summary of the people or organisations that you represent.
Contact details/How to respond
Please send your response by 8 October 2015 to:
Ministry of Justice
Post point 1.13
102 Petty France
Fax: 0870 761 7768