Both Calderdale Magistrates’ Court and Halifax County Court and Family Court are to close with services moved to Bradford the Government announced today.
Justice Minister Shailesh Vara outlined the move in a letter to MPs explaining that 86 courts are to close across the UK in a move which has been heavily criticised.
Halifax MP Holly Lynch has expressed her dismay at the closures saying:
“I am shocked by this announcement; it goes against all the expert advice presented to the consultation and marks the end of 140 years of justice provision in Halifax.”
Ms Lynch had organised an open letter to Justice Minister Michael Gove signed by local lawyers, politicians and residents which highlighted the harm that would be caused should the courts close.
The letter included partners, directors and owners from 13 different law firms associated with the courts, as well as Ms Lynch, council leader Tim Swift, and the CEO of WomenCentre Calderdale and Kirklees Angela Everson.
The letter argued that co-locating both courts in the Magistrates’ Court building would have had many benefits over the proposal to move all court services to Bradford.
Ms Lynch believes that the government should have accepted this proposal saying:
“I recently met with the Conservative Justice Minister to explain to him how merging the two courts in Halifax would deliver both a saving for the Government but also maintain access to justice for the people of Calderdale. This would have actually saved the Government money compared to moving to Bradford.
“Closing the courts is a huge blow for Halifax from a government which once again has shown its determination to cut our local services no matter what the social or economic cost.”
Campaigners had heavily criticised the proposed closure with many citing the increase in travel times if services were moved from Halifax to Bradford. The open letter to Michael Gove stated:
“20 per cent of people using public transport would face a 60 to 120 minute trip, up from three per cent today. This means a two to four hour round trip to the courts.
“We fear that this will act as a deterrent to those deciding whether to fight their case in court as well as reducing the number of people willing to come forward as witnesses.”