Suffolk County Council voices its objection to proposed closure of courts in Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft
Suffolk County Council has added its voice to a growing campaign against the proposed closure of two magistrates' courts in the county, describing the move as 'a cut too far'.
Councillors from across the political divide overwhelmingly supported a motion objecting to the potential loss of courts in Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft during a full council meeting today.
The long distances people would have to travel and the potential damage to local justice if Suffolk was left with just one magistrates' court, in Ipswich, were among the concerns raised.
Speaking during today's full council meeting at Endeavour House, Conservative councillor Joanna Spicer, who tabled the motion, said: 'Local delivery of justice is about far more than geographical location. It is about a system presided over by local magistrates and supported by local police, local probation, and local statutory services, including those provided by this county council.
'In my view it is about ensuring equality of service, whether you are old or young, employed or unemployed, a victim, a witness or a defendant, or a friend or relative. Equality under the law is everyone's right and these proposals seem to remove that for the people of Suffolk.'
Supporting the motion, Labour councillor Sonia Barker, said the proposals were 'another nail in the coffin of locally-administered justice', adding: 'This is unjust and it is unequal access to justice in so many ways.'
If the plans go ahead then Suffolk would have lost 11 magistrates' courts since the early 1990s and would lead to it being one of just six English counties with one magistrates' court.
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It would also be the worst served in the country for the number of magistrates' courts per square mile on average, with one magistrates' court covering 1,466 square miles.
Sandy Martin, leader of the Labour group, said: 'We believe public services properly administered can be preventative and produce a better society.'
Meanwhile, Mark Bee, Conservative county councillor for Beccles, who seconded the motion, said it does not make sense to close the court in Lowestoft when it has recently undergone major improvements.
He said the proposals will particularly hit those from socially deprived areas, adding: 'We need to send a very strong message as a county council and across parties so our robust response will be listened to.
'Let's say 'no, it is a cut too far, we don't want this to happen'.'
Today's motion was passed unanimously.