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Campaigners “very disappointed” by decision to close Lowestoft Magistrates’ Court

Lowestoft solicitors Rob Barley (left) and James Hartley are preparing a case for keeping Lowestoft magistrates court open.

Lowestoft solicitors Rob Barley (left) and James Hartley are preparing a case for keeping Lowestoft magistrates court open.

Lowestoft Magistrates’ Court is to close - despite a compelling case being made to keep it open.

Lowestoft Magistrates Court. 

Picture: James BassLowestoft Magistrates Court. Picture: James Bass

The Ministry of Justice announced yesterday (Thursday, February 11) that the building in Old Nelson Street, Lowestoft would be shut to save money following a nationwide review of the court estate.

In a conversation with Waveney MP Peter Aldous on the day of the announcement, justice minister Shailesh Vara indicated that the court’s utilisation rate - which the MoJ says is 26 per cent - meant it was not a viable option to keep open.

“The decision to close a court is never taken lightly, but in the digital age I am confident we have measures in place to ensure access to justice is not diminished,” Mr Vara said.

However Mr Aldous said he had expressed his concern at the decision to Mr Vara.

“I’m very disappointed by this decision,” Mr Aldous said.

“I believe the case that was put together by local users of the court for it to remain open was compelling.

“With a big emphasis at the moment on localism and devolution, I believe the views of local people should be given high priority.”

Mr Aldous believes the decision will have a big impact on justice in the area.

“The magistrates’ court serves a specific area and a specific community. They will find it more difficult to get to alternative courts. In that respect, I’m concerned about this because I think it’s the wrong approach.”

He added that he agreed videolink could work for smaller hearings that can be dealt with relatively quickly - but said it was important that people are present in court for most hearings.

Rob Barley - from Norton Peskett solicitors in Lowestoft, who submitted a counter proposal to the closure as part of the MoJ’s official consultation - said the closure could “undoubtedly have the potential to impact people’s willingness to attend court”.

He added: “The real sadness about Lowestoft is that it is an excellent facility. It had an excellent connection to the police station, was conveniently located and had all the facilities it need. I still think the facilities are better than Great Yarmouth.”

What do you think about the decision to close Lowestoft Magistrates’ Court? Write, giving your full contact details, to: Journal Postbox, 147 London Road North, Lowestoft NR32 1NB or email andrew.papworth@archant.co.uk


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