Kettering Magistrates' Court to close today
Kettering Magistrates' Court is to serve justice for the final time today, with Corby Magistrates' Court following suit tomorrow.
Both courts were confirmed as part of 80 nationwide set for closure in February, despite an ongoing campaign to save them.
As part of the move Wellingborough Magistrates’ Court will open five days a week - but Terry Knights, chair of the bench at Corby Magistrates’ Court, says the move will affect local justice.
He said: “Corby magistrates are bitterly disappointed that this vital public service will be lost when the courthouse in the town closes on Friday, July 1.
“We fought as hard as we possibly could to keep the court open and were grateful for the widespread public support we received.
“Magistrates are very concerned about the loss of local justice and the likelihood that a two-tier justice system will develop as the public in more rural areas, such as ours, struggle to access their “local” court.
“Great change is promised within the legal system but daily magistrates see problems arising at every point in the judicial process as we wait for these changes to be funded and implemented.”
Under the changes, Northamptonshire residents from as far north as Oundle would have to travel to Wellingborough to attend court - more than 20 miles away.
The journey would almost 90 minutes each way via public transport, and Mr Knights says the cutbacks will incur much higher costs.
He added: “There is no doubt the Government, in the form of Her Majesty’s Court Services (HMCTS), are trying to modernise the way the courts work which we applaud, but do not agree that closing courts to save costs is the right way to progress.
“Magistrates from the Corby bench will be sitting in Wellingborough from July 1 and we assure you that we will continue to serve to the best our abilities and to the high standards we have always strived to maintain at Corby. “Unfortunately, in our opinion this is not local justice and will incur much higher costs and inconvenience to all court users.”
An HMCTS spokesperson said: “The decision to close a court is never taken lightly, but maintaining underused and dilapidated court buildings is simply unsustainable and costs the taxpayer £500 million a year.
“Access to justice is not just about proximity to a court and we are investing over £700 million to reform and digitise our courts and tribunal services to deliver swifter and more certain justice.”
Kettering County Court, which deals with housing possessions and money claims, is due to close between July and December.