Halifax MP Holly Lynch has slammed the Government for failings in the courts system which have resulted in some domestic violence victims waiting nearly a year to see perpetrators face justice.
Having secured a Parliamentary debate on the impact of court closures in Calderdale, Ms Lynch says that waiting times are unacceptably long. She told MPs:
“The police inform me that the reduced footprint of the justice system is having an impact on domestic violence prosecutions in particular.
“A recent Domestic Violence charge was scheduled to be heard in February 2019, which will fall just short of the victim facing a twelve month wait for the case to be heard”.
The Halifax MP worked with local law firms, magistrates and Calderdale Council to retain some court provision in the area when the Halifax County and Family Court and Calderdale Magistrates Court were earmarked for closure in 2016.
However 20 months on from the court closures, Government promises of video links and new technology have not been delivered and Ms Lynch believes that the backlog of cases now waiting to be heard at courts as far away as Leeds is having a detrimental impact on justice provision locally.
“The Government insisted that all Calderdale cases would be transferred to Bradford, 10 miles away, and their consultation was based on these travel times yet we know that this is simply not the current situation” she said.
“For some cases, police officers, social workers, victims and witnesses are having to make the journey to either Huddersfield, or travelling over 20 miles to courts in Leeds.”
Ms Lynch has also highlighted the impact on Halifax town centre of the court closures and says that three local law firms have closed and left Halifax since then.
Speaking after the debate she repeated her calls for the installation of a video link room in Halifax where victims and witnesses could securely give evidence over video without the need to travel to court.
“When the Government closed our courts a couple of years ago Ministers promised that access to justice would be maintained with the installation of new technology,” she said.
“Since then I have met with Ministers and the head of the Courts and Tribunals service, to seek a firm commitment for when this will be delivered. I was promised a year ago that we would get a video link but this has not been delivered and I was left with no choice but to seek a debate and outline just how serious the situation is.
“During the debate the Justice Minister offered to meet to urgently discuss the problems I raised. I hope that the Government will finally invest in justice in our town and ensure that access to justice is at least partially restored for people in Calderdale.”