Wakefield Council fights to keep Magistrates’ Court open

Wakefield Magistrates Court
Wakefield Magistrates Court

Wakefield Council is calling on the government to scrap plans to close Wakefield Magistrates’ Court.

Last week, the court was listed by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) as one of 91 courts and tribunals in England and Wales, earmarked for closure.

Under the government’s proposals, the court’s work would move to Leeds Magistrates’ Court.

Council leader, Coun Peter Box said: “There is no doubt that Wakefield residents will be adversely affected by the closure, if it goes ahead.

“The city’s court deals with a wide range of crime like assault, domestic violence, sexual offences and driving offences. Getting justice if you are a victim of crime or a witness to crime will become even more difficult if the magistrates court closes.

“The cost and time to travel to Leeds, particularly for those living in the south of the district, will undoubtedly prove difficult.

“Wakefield residents should have fair and reasonable access to the justice system and we, as a council, cannot, sit back and allow this government to close the last of the district’s Magistrates courts, potentially putting justice out of the reach of some of our citizens.

“I have been speaking about this to my follow council leaders from across West Yorkshire and I know we have their full support in our call for the government to scrap this proposal.”

The MoJ has launched a public consultation on the proposals, which runs until October 8.

The council will submit a formal response in opposition to the plans.

And the Labour Group, the party which has overall control of the council, will put forward a formal motion against the proposal at the next full council meeting in September.

In last week’s consultation paper, the MoJ said: “It is proposed that Wakefield Magistrates’ Court closes and the criminal work moves to Leeds Magistrates’ Court where there is ample accommodation for staff and hearings.

“There are 21 courtrooms at Leeds Magistrates’ Court, with only ten to 12 being used on a daily basis at present. There will be no enabling works required to accommodate the workload from Wakefield.

“The facilities at Wakefield Magistrates’ Court are sub-standard and out of date for staff, judiciary and all court users.

“The building is not compliant with the Equality Act 2010 due to its listed status and the courtroom accommodation, in particular, is in need of modernisation.”