Brake Challenges Jack Straw on Future of Sutton Magistrates' Court

January 30, 2008 10:43 AM

MP Tom Brake, who successfully joined forces with local magistrates, residents and Paul Burstow MP to fight off the last attempt to shut Sutton Magistrates' Court, yesterday challenged Jack Straw to confirm that a new threat to the Court is not looming.

In an exchange with the Secretary of State for Justice, the Rt Hon Jack Straw MP, Tom pressed Jack Straw to re-confirm the court was safe.

In his reply, Jack Straw was only able to confirm that he was not aware of any closure plans.

After the exchange, Tom said, "I take little comfort from the fact that the Secretary of State is not aware of any plans to close the Court. And even less comfort from the fact that he will make me fully aware of any such closure plans quickly! Our local Court must not be left in a position where administrative changes mean justice is delivered less efficiently and artificially push up overhead costs making the Court less viable financially. We must continue our fight for local justice to be delivered locally, by local magistrates."

The full exchange from yesterday's Question Time is below

T3. [182493] Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): In the words of the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Bridget Prentice), Sutton magistrates' court

"serves the community of Sutton...and it does so to a high standard."-[ Official Report, 5 July 2006; Vol. 448, c. 277WH.]

With the clustering of courts now proceeding, and Sutton magistrates' court losing staff to Croydon, making it more difficult to access files and pushing up overhead costs, will the Secretary of State reconfirm that there is no planned closure of the court?

29 Jan 2008 : Column 163

Mr. Straw: As the hon. Gentleman knows, closure was considered under a proposal made in 2002. A final decision was made by my then hon. Friend Christopher Leslie, who was a Minister in the Department for Constitutional Affairs, and announced at the beginning of 2006. I am not aware of any plans for closure now. If there are any, I shall ensure that the hon. Gentleman is made fully aware of them quickly.

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