MoJ spends almost £1m on Suffolk courts earmarked for closure
- Credit: James Bass
Almost £1m has been spent on maintenance and improvements at two Suffolk courts earmarked for closure.
Bury St Edmunds has seen more than £476,000 spent on it in the last five years, including a new secure dock and lighting, while in Lowestoft more than £406,000 has been spent.
While much of the cash has been spent on routine maintenance, almost £300,000 has been spent on capital improvements at the two courts over the last five years.
The Ministry of Justice announced last year that it planned to close the two courts, meaning Suffolk would be one of just six counties with only one court building – in Ipswich.
MPs and other local leaders have rallied around to make the case for keeping courts in the towns.
Waveney MP Peter Aldous said: 'There is a compelling case for retaining Lowestoft Magistrates' Court so as to provide full access to justice for local people.
'At the same time Lowestoft is a modern functioning building in which investment has been made in recent years and this adds to the case for keeping the court open.'
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Rob Barley, partner in the criminal department at Norton Peskett, said Lowestoft courthouse was a modern, well-equipped building that had served the local community well, and continues to serve the local community well.
'It enables justice to be administered locally by people who know what the issues are in the area and the town.'
He said: 'A lot of money has been spent on updating facilities as regards security, secure docks, rewiring for video links and it is modern, functional, well-organised and laid out court building with secure ties to the police station. It is everything that a magistrates' court needs to be.'
Regarding Bury St Edmunds, MP Jo Churchill agreed that access to justice was key, but said that the figures showed the current building was not fit for purpose.
'It is a Grade II listed building so it is always going to have those ongoing maintenance costs – repairs, renewal and capital expenditure.
She said a new and more suitable site was needed, adding that it was vital to keep access to justice in the Suffolk town.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman 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.
'Any work undertaken on these buildings has been necessary for the courts to function, such as essential maintenance, including lighting systems and a secure dock at Bury St Edmunds.
'All the responses to the courts consultation are still being carefully reviewed and considered, but no decisions have been made.
'Our response to the consultation will be published in due course.'
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