Eastbourne court closure will ‘deepen inequalities in the justice system’

Court news. EMN-150910-150125001
Court news. EMN-150910-150125001

The closure of Eastbourne Law Courts will ‘deepen the inequalities in the justice system’ – according to the president of the Law Society.

Jonathan Smithers spoke out after news broke today that 86 courts will close in England and Wales, including the courts in Eastbourne’s Old Orchard Road.

The Ministry of Justice said the Eastbourne court building, which deals with criminal court cases, county court, family court and inquests, would be shutting its doors some time between October and December this year.

Mr Smithers said, “We are disappointed that the government is pressing ahead with the closure of so many courts.

“The majority of these closures will make it more difficult for a significant number of people to get to court, disproportionately affecting people living in rural areas, those with disabilities and lower income families.

“Combined with increases in court fees and reductions in eligibility for legal aid, many of the closures will serve to deepen the inequalities in the justice system between those who can and cannot afford to pay.

“We welcome that five of the closures will not be going ahead and acknowledge that the government intends to make changes to its proposals for 22 courts following evidence submitted by our members.

“We look forward to continuing discussions about the revised proposals in these areas to ensure that access to justice problems are mitigated.

“No matter who you are, no matter where you live, everyone in England and Wales must be able to access legal advice and the justice system.”

The Ministry of Justice had consulted on proposals to close 91 courts and tribunals, which is one fifth of courts and tribunals across England and Wales, and integrate or merge 31 more.

Responding to the consultation, the Law Society reflected solicitors’ views on the likely adverse impact of the proposed closures on local communities, the justice system and the legal profession and opposed the closure of 59 of the 91 courts and tribunals on which the Ministry of Justice consulted.

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