The Law Society has launched a campaign to highlight the threat to more than 90 court and tribunal buildings – including Greenwich Magistrates Court and Woolwich and Bow County Court.
The professional body for solicitors has put an interactive map online highlighting the impact of closures, including journey times to neighbouring courts. It is seeking case studies and evidence from its members.
The plans, announced in June and subject to a consultation ending in October, aim to adapt the court estate to the digital age, reduce the number of underutilised courts, and cut annual running costs of around £500 million.
Among the proposals:
- Greenwich Magistrates Court would close and hearings transferred to Bromley.
- Bow County Court would close and cases would moved to Clerkenwell and Shoreditch.
- Woolwich County Court would close and cases transferred to Bromley.
Justice Secretary Michael Gove has launched the buildings programme as barristers gear up to fight his cuts in legal aid. He has said that courts could hold sessions in public buildings.
He told the Justice Select Committee: “There are public buildings in all our constituencies which could be used by the justice system at particular points. There is no intrinsic reason why magistrates should not sit, if it is thought appropriate, in a council chamber.”
Law Society president Jonathan Smithers said: “Promoting and protecting access to justice for all, whoever and wherever they are, is a core value uniting our diverse membership.
“We need our members’ views and case studies so that we can respond to the Government proposals for the closure and integration of courts and tribunals across England and Wales.”
The Government’s consultation estimates that 95% of citizens would be able to reach their required court centre within an hour by car if the changes go ahead.