Groups unite to oppose closure of Chichester courts

Legal workers concerned about the proposed closure of the courts in Chichester PICTURE BY KATE SHEMILT ks1500437-2
Legal workers concerned about the proposed closure of the courts in Chichester PICTURE BY KATE SHEMILT ks1500437-2

The city is coming together to oppose the closure of Chichester’s courts.

Chichester Combined Court (Crown and County) and Chichester Magistrates’ Court are among 91 across the country being consulted on for closure by the government. The consultation will end on October 8.

At a Chichester District Council meeting on Tuesday, cabinet member for finance and governance Philippa Hardwick said the closure could have ‘a disproportionate impact upon the less well-off, rurally isolated and vulnerable groups’.

Setting out the council’s response, cllr Hardwick added: “It is anticipated much of the growth of population in this part of West Sussex will be in the younger age bracket unlike other areas.

“The Office for National Statistics information on crime would suggest younger people are disproportionately likely to be the victims of crime.

“Chichester is a ‘hub’ for legal services. Any closure of the courts are likely to have a significant impact on the legal companies and their operations.

“The council also notes the issue of travel to other courts and the impact it has upon enforcing bodies, witnesses and defendants.

“Taking into account that many people living outside Chichester but in the district need to travel by bus or car to join a train journey it is likely to be physically impossible for many people in the outer edges of the district to get to court for morning sessions.

“This of course will have a disproportionate impact upon the less well-off, rurally isolated and other vulnerable groups.”

Green Party city councillor Sarah Sharp has set up a petition to keep Chichester’s courts open.

“We have set up a petition which we will hand in to the Ministry of Justice to show the strength of opinion among residents not only from Chichester but all the surrounding areas,” said cllr Sharp. “We took to the streets on Monday, knocking on doors with a letter in support of the local courts. We were greeted with an overwhelming positive and welcoming response.

“I urge people to sign this petition or write if they believe in local services. I urge people to do this for the most vulnerable in our society for whom a journey to a court in Worthing or Lewes would be too expensive, stressful or difficult, especially if faced with traumatic circumstances.

“Ultimately I urge people to take action now to cut down on extra journeys, congestion and air pollution, which will be the result of these closures.”

To sign the petition phone Sarah on 07789 843556, visit 13 Whyke Lane to obtain a hard copy, or go to Online petition

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