A solicitor fears plans to move weekend remand courts to Leeds could spell the end for Wakefield Magistrates’ Court.
Draft proposals by justice chiefs would see Saturday and Bank Holiday sittings in Wakefield shifted to Leeds with total savings estimated at £124,657 per year.
But a past president of Wakefield Law Society fears for the future of local justice and believes any savings will be swallowed up by extra travel costs and delays.
Chris Morton, of Solicitors Chambers in Wakefield and Pontefract: “I am concerned at the administration of local justice. After 300 years of sitting, Pontefract Magistrates’ Court closes permanently in March – a decision made without consultation and for financial reasons.
“Now the court service are proposing that all our weekend courts will sit in Leeds, again for purely financial reasons. The increase in costs to the police and the criminal defence service will outweigh any savings.
“I believe those charged with offending in our area should be dealt with by the local bench. I am concerned that we are heading towards centralisation in Leeds, which is a retrograde step towards the efficient and economic prosecution of criminal cases.”
The consultation papers suggests cutting five weekend remand court across West Yorkshire down to two in Leeds and Bradford.
The proposal document from the HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) says: “By reducing the number of Saturday and Bank Holiday charge court locations from five to two, significant savings can be achieved across the criminal justice service.”
The consultation period closes on April 5.
A spokesman for the HMCTS said they were unable to provide a comment as the Express went to press yesterday.