27 October 2016
The proposed closure of Camberwell Green and Hammersmith Magistrates’ Courts, comes only months after the decision was made to shutdown 84 courts in England and Wales including 10 courts in London This is just under 20% of courts and tribunals and comes on top of the previous court estate rationalisation programme which resulted in the closure of over a third of the then existing magistrates' and county courts.
In our response to the government consultation on the proposed closures, we make the point that both courts have excellent facilities. Indeed, the rationale offered earlier by HMCTS for closing Feltham Magistrates’ Court was that there was capacity for Hammersmith magistrates’ court, described by HMCTS as a “modern purpose-built courthouse” to absorb its work.
The union is concerned that this is part of a drive by government to remove local access to justice, with people being forced to use digital technology. This particularly concerning given that a recent TUC study found that only 4% of court staff agree that IT in courts works effectively.
PCS is calling for improvements to technology to be developed in collaboration with staff and fully tested before being rolled out across court services.
Camberwell Green Magistrates’ Court was one of the first courthouses in the country to pilot the virtual court and consequently it has recently received a substantial amount of investment in terms of digital technology.
A petition has been launched to stop the closures of these two, modern, well-equipped and well-used courts.