Temporary Closure For Ely Magistrates' Court on April Fool's Day!

PUBLISHED: 11:22 21 January 2009 | UPDATED: 10:43 04 May 2010

ELY magistrates court is to close on April Fool s Day - leaving a listed building empty and the future for local justice looking bleak. Despite calls from magistrates, councillors and members of the public to keep the court open - and hundreds of petiti

ELY magistrates' court is to close on April Fool's Day - leaving a listed building empty and the future for local justice looking bleak.

Despite calls from magistrates, councillors and members of the public to keep the court open - and hundreds of petition signatures to our "Keep Ely Magistrates' Court Open" petition - Her Majesty's Court Service has decided to close the court door - "for now."

Expensive law courts have been built at Peterborough, Huntingdon and Cambridge in the past ten years, leaving traditional magistrates' courts in city and town centres with extortionate running costs and the new courts with extra capacity. As part of a national cost-cutting exercise, The Ministry of Justice has asked HMCS to cut £1m off its Anglia-wide budget before 2012 - which means building closures and staff cuts, as part of a national centralisation and efficiency drive.

An HMCS spokesperson said: "This local decision does not mean Ely Magistrates' Court is being closed. All decisions on permanent individual court closures are for Ministers."

"It is essential that Cambridgeshire court users receive the best service that the judiciary and HM Courts Service can offer. For this service to be maintained it is necessary that the use of resources, including court usage, is kept under constant review at a local level. The number of cases being heard at Ely Magistrates' Court has steadily declined to the extent that it now only operates at 24 per cent of its capacity. Over three quarters of these cases are motoring cases which are committed across the county and have no link with Ely. It is in this situation that the decision has been taken, by a representative group of the local judiciary including magistrates and HMCS staff, that those cases currently heard in Ely should be moved to Cambridgeshire Magistrates' Court after 1 April 2009. This decision to stop using Ely Magistrates' Court at the current time was taken following a recently completed review at local level of listing of cases across Cambridgeshire. The decision will be kept under review."

An internal document, "Estates Review First Phase" was leaked to the Ely Standard last year, stating that the closure of Mildenhall and Ely magistrates' courts were being considered. Nobody from HMCS would confirm how the decision was arrived at.

It is not yet known ho many staff will lose their jobs in the Cambridge move.

A source at Ely Magistrates' court said employees and magistrates were receiving their information from the press and no-one had been informed of the next move.

But a London-based spokesperson said that all staff had been offered jobs elsewhere in the county and magistrates would be given the option of moving to Cambridge.

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