Lawyer joins the fight against court clo­sures

Macclesfield Express - - FRONT PAGE - STU­ART GREER

AFAMILY lawyer has slammed Gov­ern­ment plans to close Mac­cles­field County Court to save money.

The Min­istry of Jus­tice has launched a con­sul­ta­tion over the clo­sure of ‘un­der-used’ Mac­cles­field mag­is­trates’ and county courts.

It is pro­posed that the work­load from the county court is moved to Manch­ester Civil Jus­tice Cen­tre and cases from the mag­is­trates court are moved to Crewe Mag­is­trates’ Court.

It means de­fen­dants, wit­nesses, so­lic­i­tors and po­lice from Mac­cles­field would have to travel 20 miles to a court – 45 min­utes in a car and more than a hour on public trans­port.

Ni­cola McInnes, a di­vorce and fam­ily lawyer at SAS Daniels, be­lieves the changes will see a sharp in­crease in the num­ber of peo­ple who don’t show up to court.

She said: “Clo­sure of the court, along with the huge cuts to le­gal aid for fam­ily cases will have a mas­sive fi­nan­cial im­pact on peo­ple as they may not be able to af­ford to travel to Manch­ester nor have the in­cli­na­tion to do so.

“I be­lieve we will see an in­crease in the num­ber of peo­ple who sim­ply can’t or don’t show up.”

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port by the MoJ both courts were used only 44 per cent of the time dur­ing the 2014/15 fi­nan­cial year.

The costs of run­ning the county court and mag­is­trates courts are £275,000 and £120,000 re­spec­tively.

There are 11 mem­bers of staff based at the Mac­cles­field courts.

A re­port by the Min­istry of Jus­tice says it will cost Mac­cles­field res­i­dents up to £16.90 for a re­turn jour­ney to Crewe on the train, or £5 on the bus.

A trip to Manch­ester will cost up to £15 for a re­turn jour­ney on the train.

Mrs McInnes said the com­mu­nity will suf­fer as a re­sult of the loss of an ‘es­sen­tial ser­vice’ to the town.

She added: “The county court of­fers a friendly, sup­port­ive and ef­fec­tive en­vi­ron­ment for those who are at­tend­ing un­der re­ally dif­fi­cult and stress­ful cir­cum­stances.

“I can at­test that it’s a friendly, well run and ex­tremely ef­fi­cient ser­vice.

“Its

reach

al­ready ex­tends as far as Bux­ton and I won­der how on earth the court in Crewe will be able to serve such a wide area.”

Mac­cles­field MP David Rut­ley has pledged to fight for the ‘right ac­cess to jus­tice’.

The con­sul­ta­tion, which pro­poses the clo­sure of 91 out of 460 court build­ings across the coun­try, can be viewed via jus­tice.gov.uk.

●● Fam­ily so­lic­i­tor Ni­cola McInnes says there will be a rise in peo­ple not turn­ing up for hear­ings be­cause of the cost and in­con­ve­nience of trav­el­ling if Mac­cles­field County Court is closed

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