Labour Research November 2015


Local justice under threat

There is a serious risk to local access to justice posed by Ministry of Justice (MoJ) proposals to close nearly 20% of courts and tribunals across England and Wales, the PCS civil service union has warned.

In August, courts minister Shailesh Vara launched a 12-week consultation into the plans — which ended last month — and which could close 91 courts and tribunals in England and Wales. The PCS says that if this closure programme goes ahead 38.5% of courts and tribunals will have closed since 2010.

The union’s submission to the government’s consultation makes the point that the closures will restrict access to courts and tribunals for many court users and undermine public confidence in the justice system.

“These proposals represent a justice system in the 21st century in danger of becoming so divorced from the people who need access to it that it can no longer be considered to be true justice,” said PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka.

The union says there have been a series of errors made in the plans, including serious underestimates of journey times to alternative courts, along with a lack of detailed cost benefit analysis by Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service, with the threat to many courts making no financial sense.

The proposals come at a time when staff morale is low because of previous court closures, job cuts, pay restraint and the threat of privatisation.