Closure a ‘sad day for local justice’

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A LEADing magistrate has described the closure of Towcester Magistrates’ Court this week as a ‘sad moment for local justice.’

Chair of the bench Marion Oliver is mourning the closure of the court in Watling Street West.

In December, following a public consultation, the Ministry of Justice announced it would close the court and this week the doors were closed to the public for the last time. Daventry Magistrates’ was also closed this week and cases once heard at both courts will be moved to Northampton.

Mrs Oliver has been a magistrate for 12 years and said magistrates saw most of the people who appear in court, with only the most serious criminals going on to face a crown court judge.

Mrs Oliver said: “Local justice has always been a key stone of the judicial system and there is a huge difference to a court in a rural area and a court in an urban area. There is local understanding of what goes on behind an offence, so we will lose that knowledge.

“And of course there’s the travel time. If you live in Brackley and don’t have a car it can take two hours to get to Northampton. Court starts at 10am and obviously we need people there a little earlier so they can prepare.”

Mrs Oliver said it was a sad day for the district and added: “We are very sad. We are not blind to the financial problems locally and nationally, but it is a sad day the court is closing, It is a great shame.”

Mrs Oliver said there will be no direct job losses as a result of the move to Northampton but it will be a challenging time for magistrates and court staff.

She added: “There will be an impact on waiting lists with everyone going to Northampton, you can’t squeeze a quart into a pint pot. It is going to be a challenge, not just for magistrates, but also the HMCS who will try to fit everything in and make the system quicker.”

Most cases at Towcester are related to motoring offences committed by drivers on the near by M1 motorway and the occasional assault.

No one from the police authority which owns the court was able to comment on the future of the building which is shared with Northants Police. However the future of the site is considered in the recently adopted Towcester Masterplan which states: “The police are developing an estates strategy that includes the relocation of the police station, provided that alternative accommodation can be found in the town centre, such as within the civic centre at Moat Lane.”