Councillors call for Magistrates’ court service to be retained in Wakefield
Ref: PR 5067
Councillors in Wakefield are fighting to keep a Magistrates' court service in the district following Government proposals to close 91 courts and tribunals in England and Wales.
The proposals – now subject to a national consultation – include the closure of Wakefield Magistrates' Court, which means residents would be required to travel to Leeds to get to their nearest local court.
The full meeting of Wakefield Council voted unaninmously after a lively debate to write to the Secretary of State for Justice Michael Gove opposing the closure of Wakefield Magistrates' Court and calling for the service to be retained.
The motion – which had full cross-party support - included an amendment from the Conservative Group Leader Cllr Nadeem Ahmed which said local solicitors' firms would also be disadvantaged by the plans.
Cllr Graham Stokes, Cabinet member for modern public services, who moved the motion, said the residents would be put to great inconvenience by the proposals with longer travelling times and higher costs.
"The closure of Pontefract Magistrates' Court in 2013 has already caused hardship from people on that side of the district now having to travel to Wakefield. It is inconceivable that our district will not have a single magistrates' court," said Cllr Stokes.
"Journey times to Leeds from many parts of the Wakefield district are difficult and time-consuming, particularly for people without cars who are reliant on public transport.
"Taken alongside cuts to legal aid, the closure of local courts will severely restrict people's access to justice," said Cllr Stokes.
The Council meeting, including this debate on the magistrates' court motion, can be viewed at www.wakefield.gov.uk/livestream