Category: Administration of justice
Last month, courts and legal aid minister Shailesh Vara announced that 86 courts and tribunals in England and Wales are to close.
In July last year, the government launched a consultation on the
closure of 91 courts and tribunals. Ministers believe that the 86
courts and tribunals facing the axe are used for less than two full
days a week and the closures are aimed at making savings from the
£500m courts estate budget.
Vara confirmed the closures in a ministerial statement, in which
he argued that 'over 97 per cent of citizens will be able to reach
their required court within an hour by car' and that 83 per cent of
the population will be able to reach a tribunal within an hour by
Poonam Bhari, chair of LAG and a family law barrister, is
sceptical about the estimates of travel times: 'These closures will
further concentrate courts and tribunals in urban centres making
travel, especially at rush hour, difficult for people living in
outlying and rural areas.' She is also concerned about the cost of
travel, 'especially for many vulnerable clients, who will face
transport and other problems undertaking long journeys to
The government believes the loss of access to the courts and
tribunals system can be offset by modernising the justice
through the use of technology. It is committed to a £700m
investment in IT infrastructure over the next four years. According
to the minister's statement, it aims to 'make the entire justice
system more accessible to everyone - witnesses, victims, claimants,
police and lawyers - by using modern technology including online
plea, claims and evidence systems and video conferencing, reducing
the need for people to travel to court'.
'I think everyone who uses the court system regularly is aware
that there are times, particularly in the afternoon, when they
deserted,' said Bhari, 'so on one level I can understand what the
government wants to do. The problem is video links and other
technological innovations don't work for all court users.'