Judge criticises Fareham Magistrates’ Court closure

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A JUDGE criticised the plan to close Fareham’s magistrates court as a ‘quick fix’, it has been revealed.

The government announced the closure of the court and published consultation responses yesterday.

The court could close as early as October to December but video links could be used in the council’s civic offices.

An unnamed district judge criticised the proposal which will see Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court undergo work to have a youth court.

The judge said: ‘From my reading of the financial costs/benefits in the impact assessment and the consultation paper itself, the exercise appears to me to have the look of a “quick fix”.’

A comment from South Hampshire Magistrates criticised the suggestion that ‘some enabling work’ would be needed.

It said: ‘We believe this to be a gross understatement, the building requiring significant enabling works and this, combined with the cost of moving the Fareham business to Portsmouth and the preparation and presentation of Fareham court house for sale, would entirely off-set any immediate financial gain.’

Kate Watts, a criminal solicitor, said she fears the closure will delay trial listings and youth defendants will have a frightening experience at Portsmouth.

She said: ‘I do think it’s going to have a massive impact. I know that Portsmouth don’t finish their list most days.’

Cllr Sean Woodward, leader of Fareham Borough Council, said: ‘Access to justice – that’s my single major concern.’

He said the consultation figures only looked at people’s journey times from the court, not from their homes and that means those travelling from the west of Fareham borough were not accounted for.

They will have to travel to Portsmouth which will take the workload.

Cllr Woodward had offered the civic offices as an alternative for hearings.

The report said: ‘HM Courts & Tribunals Service will work with Fareham Borough Council to explore alternative local access to court provision through video links in civic buildings.’

Chichester Magistrates’ Court will close in October to December. Chichester Crown Court is due to close between January and March nexty year, with work moved to Portsmouth and Lewes. The work may move to other local sites.