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Strong case made for reallocating Beccles and Southwold court cases

PUBLISHED: 13:02 23 November 2016 | UPDATED: 13:03 23 November 2016

Lowestoft solicitors Rob Barley, left, and James Hartley are calling for Beccles and Southwold cases to be reallocated so they are more accessible for witnesses. Picture: NICK BUTCHER

Lowestoft solicitors Rob Barley, left, and James Hartley are calling for Beccles and Southwold cases to be reallocated so they are more accessible for witnesses. Picture: NICK BUTCHER

A strong case has been made for reallocating Waveney court hearings to make them more accessible for witnesses, defendants and victims of crime, community leaders and solicitors have said.

Lowestoft Magistrates' Court. 

Picture: James Bass Lowestoft Magistrates' Court. Picture: James Bass

Cases from Beccles, Southwold and surrounding areas used to be heard at Lowestoft Magistrates’ Court.

But when the courthouse in the coastal town closed in September, its workload was divided between the remaining courts in the area.

Lowestoft cases are now heard in nearby Yarmouth, but people from Beccles and Southwold have to travel more than an hour away to Ipswich – even though there are very few public transport links.

That has caused concern among legal professionals covering the area, who believe that people will be less inclined to give evidence if faced with such a long journey – affecting the quality of justice as a result.

Waveney MP Peter Aldous is shown inside a van with a videolink to a court, where witnesses coud be asked to give their evidence. Picture by James Hartley Waveney MP Peter Aldous is shown inside a van with a videolink to a court, where witnesses coud be asked to give their evidence. Picture by James Hartley

A group including Waveney MP Peter Aldous, Beccles mayor Graham Catchpole, Worlingham Parish Council chairman Wendy Summerfield and Norton Peskett partner James Hartley met with officials from HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) to raise their concerns.

It had been originally requested by Beccles Town Council.

After a two-hour discussion at Beccles Town Hall, Mr Aldous said: “We explained our concern about that and it’s something they’ve undertaken to review.

“They’re going to look at the number of hearings and where they are going, with a view to making them more accessible to this area.”

Mr Catchpole said the current arrangement is “ridiculous” considering the strong public transport links to Norwich and Yarmouth, as oppose to Ipswich.

“I’m reasonably confident that the powers that be will go away and have a look at what they’re doing,” he added.

“I’m reasonably confident we can get a result.”

Mr Hartley said: “They’ve agreed to have look again, as we said why on earth have people got to travel all the way to Ipswich – why can’t they go to Yarmouth or Norwich?”

HMCTS officials were also criticised for their suggestion made at the same meeting that witnesses and victims of crime could be asked to give evidence by videolink from the back of a van in some cases.

The van would turn up to a certain location to allow people to give evidence without having to physically attend a court building.

But Mr Hartley criticised the idea proposed on Friday (November 18) as “second-rate justice”, adding: “I find the idea of justice from the back of a van offensive and it brings the law into disrepute.”

What do you think? Write, giving your full contact details, to andrew.papworth@archant.co.uk

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