COURT CLOSURES ENDANGERS NOTION OF LOCAL JUSTICE

On the final day of the UK government’s consultation period, Plaid Cymru’s Jonathan Edwards MP has stepped up calls to halt the hurried closures of 157 courts in Wales and England. Plaid Cymru MPs will also join the PCS union’s protest against the cuts as they convene outside the Ministry of Justice today (Wednesday).

As the local MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, Mr Edwards, along with constituency collegue Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM, has been at the forefront of the arguments against the closure. The pair firmly believe that the closures will hit rural areas of Wales disproportionately at a time of increased financial belt-tightening and puts the concept of ‘local justice’ severely at risk.

Mr Edwards and Mr Thomas have previously called for the consultation period to be given more time and to ensure that there is time for full parliamentary scrutiny. Jonathan has also supported motions in parliament to this effect as well as writting direct to the consultation team.

Jonathan Edwards MP said:

“My concern is that given the hurried nature of this consultation period, undertaken during the parliamentary recess, the report will lead to impulsively made closures, which is a very dangerous move.

“Under the government’s plans, having so few magistrates’ courts especially in rural areas, makes a complete mockery of the whole notion of local justice.

“There is no evidence of proper planning here. Plaid Cymru will continue to champion the need for a strong connection between local communities and local justice provided through magistrates courts.”

Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM added:

“The additional travel time to locations further away will prove especially costly and time-consuming at a time when families are already facing tightened budgets.

“I have also raised concerns surrounding the safety of witnesses and staff on public transport within a confined space.

“Across Wales as a whole, we cannot possibly lose any more courts. It will make life very difficult for people who use the courts – be it defendants, lawyers or justices of the peace.

“I have warned before that if these closures go ahead then I forsee the demise of the lay magistracy and greater use of district judges.”

ENDS / DIWEDD

NOTES/NODIADAU:

EDM 411 COURT CLOSURES – tabled by Plaid Parliamentary Leader Elfyn Llwyd MP

“That this House is alarmed by the proposals to close 103 magistrates’ courts and 54 county courts in England and Wales put forward by the Ministry of Justice; notes that this represents a 30 per cent. cut in courts across the country; acknowledges that courts provide a vital public service delivering local justice; deplores the fact that an announcement of such importance to hon. Members was presented in a Written Ministerial Statement; is concerned that the scale of these closures will have a significant and lasting impact on the prosecution of justice in local communities; does not believe that the timetable for public consultation is sufficient for a proposal of such magnitude; and calls on the Minister responsible to extend the consultation period to allow hon. Members and other interested parties to submit responses, and to agree to meet urgently with representatives from the recognised trade unions to discuss how to mitigate the impact of these proposals on their members”.

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