How you can help in The Journal’s fight to Keep Justice Local
- Credit: James Bass
As the fight to save Lowestoft Magistrates' Court gathers pace, The Journal has launched a campaign to Keep Justice Local.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) proposed earlier this year that the combined magistrates' and county court building in Old Nelson Street should be shut to save money.
Justice minister Shailesh Vara said at the time: 'As we bring in better digital technology for better and more efficient access to justice, fewer people will need to physically be in court.'
That move has been described this week in Parliament by Waveney MP Peter Aldous as unacceptable – and the Conservative has secured a debate in Westminster Hall next week to explain his concerns.
Suffolk police's temporary chief constable Gareth Wilson added his weight to the fears, saying the court closures – which leave just one magistrates' court based in Ipswich dealing with cases across the county – would prevent the force from providing 'the best service we can'.
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Former Lowestoft police superintendent Phil Aves – now change manager at Lowestoft Rising, an organisation working to improve the town – has said it 'would be a real tragedy for the system if the court closes and local people would feel that there's no local justice', while police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore has said there is 'huge concern if not downright anger at this nonsense'.
With less than a month left for people to register their views as part of an ongoing MoJ consultation into the plans, Journal editor Andrew Papworth said: 'There is very little time left to save the court, so we are urging our readers to get behind the campaign to keep it open.
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'Shutting Lowestoft Magistrates' Court would have a huge impact on people attending court, which may potentially put people off giving evidence as witnesses or victims, or those wrongly accused of a crime being able to defend themselves properly. That means people might not get the justice they deserve.
'Lowestoft magistrates also know the town best and are committed to keeping it safe. A magistrate in Ipswich or Norwich is not going to have that local connection.
'As much as anything it is important that justice is not only done, but is seen to be done – and people won't be able to see justice in action if it is several miles away in Ipswich.
'If you care about local justice, please join the fight to keep it open.'
The Journal is urging people to write into the MoJ to express their concerns, as well as sign an online petition.
Solicitors from the town are also working on a thorough counter-proposal to urge the government to keep the building open as a 'court hub' hearing several types of cases.
What do you think about the plan to close Lowestoft Magistrates' Court? Write, giving your full contact details, to: Journal Postbox, 147 London Road North, Lowestoft NR32 1NB or email email@example.com