High Peak Magistrates’ Court at Buxton is set to close at the end of the month despite concerns witnesses and defendants will have to travel many miles to attend an alternate judicial centre.
The Government has brought in the closure of the court, on Terrace Road, - which includes county court work - as part of closures involving dozens of courts nationwide that have been deemed unused or under-used by the Ministry of Justice.
High Peak Magistrates’ Court will close on June 29 with hearings moving to Chesterfield Justice Centre with those involved in court hearings having to travel almost an hour by car and around two hours by public transport.
The Law Society, High Peak MP Andrew Bingham, Derbyshire County Councillors, the county’s former police commissioner Alan Charles and others have expressed concerns over the closure.
County Cllr Emily Thrane criticised the assessment for the closure claiming that transport arrangements were not properly considered.
The Law Society stated the closure of Buxton magistrates’ court and county court would deepen inequalities in the judicial system by making it more difficult for people to get to court especially those on lower incomes or with disabilities.
It also argued the closure would impact on increases in court fees and reduced eligibility for legal aid.
Former Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Charles wrote to the Ministry of Justice criticising the closure and plan to shift the court’s caseload to Chesterfield.
High Peak MP Andrew Bigham campaigned against the closure on the grounds he felt there is still a need for a court in Buxton which serves surrounding rural areas.
But the Ministry of Justice says savings are needed in the current system and it has also announced plans to cut the number of duty solicitor contracts at magistrates’ courts and police stations to reduce costs.
In rural locations, alternative ways for people to access legal services could include using other civic and public buildings such as town halls for hearings.
The Ministry of Justice claimed the courts selected for closure are only used for just over a third of their available hearing time and it believes the closures will make the judicial system more efficient.
Nationally, the The MoJ received over 2,100 separate responses to the consultation, along with 13 petitions containing over 10,000 signatures.