THE announcement that Kingston Magistrates' Court is to be closed has been met with anger by those who fought to save it.
Last Wednesday, the Ministry of Justice announced that the court would be one of 93 across England and Wales to shut as part of its plans to 'deliver a more modern justice system'.
During the consultation period held earlier this year, magistrates and supporters launched a petition and collected over 4,500 signatures from residents who were in favour of saving the court.
Supporters were left devastated by the announcement and believe that the closure will only cause more expense.
Court chairman David Mulholland, said: "We're absolutely gutted. They say they're going to close the court as it would be cost effective and efficient. It's not going to be cost effective or efficient for people to travel elsewhere. If anything it's going to cause a great deal of expense. We had amazing support from the local community with the petition. We went out into Kingston town centre on two Saturdays to collect signatures.
"People were queueing up to sign as they were angry Kingston would be losing its court. There was such a strong sense of feeling among the community. We were very pleased we had as many signatures as we did. We handed the petition into number 10 and it was the biggest petition received. They want to use modern courts. We may be 70 years old, but we're well used, we're secure and we've never lost a prisoner. It doesn't make sense."
The court is expected to close within the next 12 months.
Leader of the council, Derek Osbourne, said: "The government's decision to close the Magistrates' Court is frankly outrageous. Kingston has clearly demonstrated the cost effectiveness of our local court, with the building and repair work needed on other courts being substantially greater and more expensive.
"I worry that victims, witnesses and defendants – particularly on low incomes – will find it difficult to attend court cases out of the borough. The government has gone ahead with this decision without listening to local voices. It is a sad day for Kingston."
As part of the new plans, £22million will be spent on refurbishing and modernising magistrates' courts which will include using better technology such as live video links.
Justice minister Jonathan Djanogly, said: "Access to justice is not just about access to buildings. It's about the type of justice delivered, decent facilities for victims and witnesses and efficient use of the system. Our court estate has simply not kept pace with the changing nature of our society or with the demands modern society places on our justice system.
"We are closing the worst courts in the estate – so we can concentrate our limited resources on the best ones. There will be longer journeys for some to their closest court but we should not operate courts just to shave minutes off a journey that many will never need to make."