Review call for court closures

LAWYERS campaigning against the closure of their courts are applying for an oral hearing for leave for judicial review following the failure of a written application.

Sudbury is one of at least eight county courts which are being closed around the country.

It shut in April after what local staff and solicitors regard as a “shambolic” government consultation exercise.

London-based Bates Wells & Braithwaite is backing the campaign through its Sudbury office. Partner Tim O'Neill, whose name is on the judicial review application, anticipates a court hearing by the end of October.

He says the court closure “is desperately disappointing. It's certainly inconvenient.” Local lawyers and the public are now using a court 17 miles away.

McNeill says the hearing will claim the Lord Chancellor's decision to close the court was irrational on the grounds that no savings on salaries will be made, despite economy on salaries being given as a reason for relocation. It will also argue that accommodation is adequate and not deficient as stated, that statistics of court use were partial and selective, and that no use was made of statistics showing an actual rise in demand for the court.

An earlier, written application was turned down by Mr Justice May several weeks ago.

In Stockton-on-Tees, the borough council hopes to hold meetings with the Durham and North Yorkshire Law Society to build up support for its campaign against the recent closure of its local court. The council is also considering some form of legal action.

Head of legal David Bond says: “This is an issue not limited to Stockton. We've got to get people together nationally.”

Stockton has asked for a meeting with the Lord Chancellor and specific reasons for the closure.