MPs have their say on proposed closure of magistrates courts in Kettering and Corby

Corby Magistrates Court may close
Corby Magistrates Court may close

The MPs serving Kettering and Corby and East Northants have given their reaction to proposals to close the magistrates courts in their constituencies.

The magistrates courts in Corby and Kettering are on a list of more than 50 which could close if Government proposals go ahead.

Kettering County Court is also on the national list which the Ministry of Justice has released.

But Kettering MP Philip Hollobone said: “Within half an hour of the Minister’s announcement on Thursday I was in his office to press the case of magistrates to be allowed to continue to hear cases in Kettering.

“Kettering is the largest and most central town in north Northamptonshire and local magistrates should be able to hear cases here.

“Kettering Council has developed an award-winning function of hosting in its main council building a variety of disparate but important community functions from the police to blood tests.

“I don’t see why, if the magistrates court is to close, local magistrates could not also hold their court sessions there too.

“I know that the Ministry of Justice has to make savings, but I am optimistic that an innovative solution could be found to keep magistrates in Kettering, while also finding the cost savings the Government needs to pay off the deficit.”

In response to the proposals, MP for Corby and East Northamptonshire Tom Pursglove said: “I am firmly against it.

“I have been a long-standing believer in justice being dispensed as locally as possible.”

Before the election, Mr Pursglove organised for the former justice secretary Chris Grayling to visit Corby Magistrates Court to find out more about how the criminal justice system works in the county, with Mr Grayling saying at the time that he was making the trip to listen to any concerns magistrates had.

Mr Pursglove said: “I know that the courts and tribunal service is very bureaucratic and expensive, but there are other ways that savings can be made without closing courts.

“No way is justice going to be dispensed locally if the courts close.”

Mr Pursglove said transport was another reason he was opposed to the plans, with many of his constituents living in rural areas who may have to travel for up to an hour to get to the nearest court and in some cases, having to use public transport which could take even longer.

The MP said he had already heard from constituents worried about the proposals and is hoping to set up a meeting with local magistrates in the near future.

He said he wants to campaign to keep the courts open and is encouraging anyone to contact him if they have concerns about the proposals.

He said the magistrates courts were a ‘cornerstone of our justice system’ and added: “This is not just about buildings, but about people being able to see justice being done.”

A public consultation on the proposals began on Thursday, July 16, and will run until October 8.

The consultation paper says: “There is a broad consensus that the current system is unsustainable and that we have an opportunity to create a modern, more user-focused and efficient service.

“Increased use of technology such as video, telephone and online conferencing will help drive these improvements.

“Straightforward, transactional matters, such as paying a fine and obtaining probate can be dealt with using digital technology to make the processes as straightforward as filing a tax return.

“Many straightforward cases do not need face to face hearings which should be reserved for the most sensitive or complex cases.

“We can only provide better access to justice if we take difficult decisions to reduce the cost of our estate and reinvest the savings.”

The consultation covers the proposed closure of 57 magistrates’ courts, 19 county courts, two crown courts, four tribunal hearing centres and nine combined courts.