Ely Magistrates’ Court to be closed in 2012

THE closure of Ely’s iconic magistrates’ court was officially announced this week following a lengthy review by the Lord Chancellor.

THE closure of Ely’s iconic magistrates’ court was officially announced this week following a lengthy review by the Lord Chancellor.

Despite public appeals and campaigns to keep the court open, it was announced on Tuesday that the 150-year-old building had finally lost its battle and would close in January 2012 to allow a merger with Cambridge Magistrate’s Court to take place.

All cases from East Cambridgeshire will from 2012, be heard in Cambridge in the newly formed South Cambridgeshire Local Justice Area.

Speculation about the future of the city’s courthouse has been rife in recent months and campaigners conceded that their case looked bleak after a report published by Lord Goldring in October labelled the courthouse “underused and inadequate”.

A public consultation on the potential closure was launched in the summer but appeals from the public ultimately fell on deaf ears as it was ruled that the court’s scant workload no longer made it viable.

The announcement that the magistrates court in Ely was facing the axe came alongside plans by Her Majesty’s Court Service (HCMS) to close 93 magistrates’ courts and 49 county courts across the country, closures which will save the service some �15 million in running costs annually.

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There is no news yet as to what will become of Ely’s courthouse, which needs thousands of pounds spent on repairs and maintenance annually, though HMCS said it would be looking at selling it in the near future.

Justice Minister, Jonathan Djanogly, said: “At a time of financial constraint, it is critical that this service is operating efficiently, and that it is delivering for all those who use and work in it.

“In particular, there has been a failure to recognise that the estate is too big, and that as a consequence limited taxpayer funding is spread so thinly that a large number of court-houses are entirely unsuitable for purpose. We need to take action to reduce the estate if we are to significantly raise the quality of the courts estate across the board.

“The closures which I am announcing will release significant funds which we are to be re-investing in capital projects, in proper facilities for victims and witnesses, and in moving forward with innovations such as video-links which have the potential to revolutionise the way justice is delivered in this country.

“These plans are an important part of the Ministry of Justice’s aim to move towards a simpler, more efficient justice system which is more responsive to public needs.”

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