Derbyshire’s police commissioner and the county council have criticised plans to close Buxton magistrates’ and county court over fears High Peak residents will not be able to access justice.
The Government has proposed that HM Courts and Tribunal Service close 91 courts deemed unused or under-used including Buxton forcing residents to travel to Chesterfield court.
Police Commissioner Alan Charles and Derbyshire County Council’s Resources Improvement and Scrutiny Committee have raised concerns that with no direct bus or train service to Chesterfield from the main High Peak towns journeys would be difficult. And both feel domestic violence and abuse victims could withdraw from the justice process.
Councillor Kath Lauro, Vice Chairman of the scrutiny committee, said: “We would ask the Courts Service to think again. It is very difficult and time consuming to get to Chesterfield on public transport. From parts of the High Peak the journey can take two hours or more. We are asking the service to look to keep the Stockport Court. It is much easier for people to get to Stockport from the High Peak, and cases might be able to be transferred from Buxton to Stockport.”
The Courts Service found 73 per cent of one-way journeys from the High Peak to Chesterfield by public transport will take more than two hours.
The council also highlighted car ownership in the High Peak is very low and Mr Charles pointed out the area is surrounded by rural roads often badly affected by weather.
Commissioner Charles agreed it would be better to transfer the caseload to courts in the North West such as Stockport or Manchester or Ashton.
He said: “These proposals are based solely on asset and building usage without consideration of the impact on vulnerable victims of crime in their pursuit of achieving fair justice. I am seriously concerned that many victims, but particularly victims of domestic violence and abuse, who often need significant levels of support from advisers, may be pushed into a position of feeling unable to add this additional level of anxiety to what they have already suffered and withdraw from the criminal justice process.”
Those interested can submit comments as part of a consultation via the Ministry of Justice website before an October 8 deadline. Government proposals have included people in rural locations accessing services or hearings through other civic and public buildings.