Rotherham Magistrates’ Court at risk of closure under new plans

COURT: Court Case
COURT: Court Case

Rotherham Magistrates’ Court could be closed under new plans announced by the Justice Secretary Michael Gove today.

The court is among the list of 57 magistrates’ courts, 19 county courts, two crown courts, four tribunal hearing centres and nine combined courts under threat across England and Wales.

As part of the plans, other courts and tribunal services could be integrated.

Sheffield Tribunal Service could be integrated within Sheffield Combined Courts, Doncaster County Court within the town’s magistrates’ court and Doncaster Tribunal could be integrated within Doncaster Crown Court.

In Chesterfield, the town’s county court could be integrated within Chesterfield Magistrates’ Court and the tribunal centre within Chesterfield Magistrates’ Court.

Courts Minister Shailesh Vara said: “We are reforming the courts and tribunal service so that it meets the needs of modern day users.

“As we bring in digital technology for better and more efficient access to justice, fewer people will need to physically be in a court.

“This means that we will need fewer buildings, and with many already underused and in poor quality, now is a good time to review the estate.”

The proposals aim to streamline Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service as Justice Secretary Michael Gove embarks on a drive to modernise the system.

It operates 460 courts and tribunal hearing centres across England and Wales.

The estate costs taxpayers around half a billion pounds a year to run.

Mr Vara said: “At present, it is underused. Last year over a third of all courts and tribunals were empty for more than 50% of their available hearing time.”

He added that the buildings being consulted on represent 16 per cent of hearing rooms across the country and the majority are not used for at least two thirds of their available time.

Mr Vara said there is a ‘broad consensus’ that the current system is ‘unsustainable’.

He added: “We can only provide better access to justice if we take difficult decisions to reduce the cost of our estate and reinvest the savings.”

If the proposals are given the green light, the buildings in question would be sold off.

The consultation closes on October 8 and can be viewed in full here on the Ministry of Justice website (as a PDF).