Lawyer joins the fight against court closures
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.
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