Hammersmith Magistrates’ Court and Youth Court is set to close, the government has announced.
Youth cases will instead be heard at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court, while adults cases will be relocated between Westminster, City of London and Hendon Magistrates’ Courts.
The move has been criticised by Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter , who labelled the decision a “Ministry of Justice (MoJ) land grab” and “a major disinvestment”.
The future of the court, in Talgarth Road, was plunged into doubt when the MoJ announced proposals for its closure and Camberwell Green in September last year.
It launched a consultation, but despite this revealing overwhelming opposition to the proposals, the Lord Chancellor confirmed the closure of both court houses on Wednesday (February 8).
Mr Slaughter said: “Predictably the Government has ignored its own consultation exercise and decided to go ahead with the closure of Hammersmith Magistrates’ Court – despite the fact that over 90% of respondents were against the closure.”
There were 53 responses to the Hammersmith consultation, with members of the judiciary, members of staff, professional users and public sector bodies all submitting views.
Out of these, four were in support of the MoJ plans, 48 were opposed and one was neutral.
MoJ plans would see the magistrates’ court building sold to raise money for court reform and tribunal services in England and Wales, and also contribute to the consolidation of the London criminal court estate.
When the plans were announced, Minister of State for Justice Sir Oliver Heald QC MP wrote to Mr Slaughter: “[The closures] will increase efficiency, improve the quality, and through the sale of the freehold property, release value which can be reinvested to modernise and improve the service we deliver to court and tribunal users.”
However, Mr Slaughter was not swayed and hit out at confirmation of the closure. He said: “There are no operational reasons for closing this modern, accessible and well used court.
“It is simply a land grab by the Ministry of Justice to make a profit by selling off the site. This is extremely short sighted as the consequences for access to justice will, in the long term, be costly both in human and financial terms.
“The alternative courts suggested at Westminster, Highbury and Hendon are themselves busy following a closure programme earlier last year and, in any event, are long distances away . The claim that Hendon is less than an hour’s travel from Hammersmith implies that people will be using time machines to get there.”
Law Society president Robert Bourns was also critical, saying: “This decision is ill-considered given government has carried out a no more than cursory assessment of the impact on access to justice of the very recent closure of 86 courts across England and Wales, including 10 in London.”
A spokesperson for HM Courts and Tribunals Service said: “We have a world leading legal system and are investing £1 billion to modernise our courts and tribunals to deliver justice that is efficient, simple and works for everyone.
“London has the densest concentration of magistrates’ courts in the country and we are confident access to justice can be maintained and significant savings for re-investment in our court reforms can be achieved through these closures.”
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