PRESS RELEASE FROM ANN COFFEY MP
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MP steps up the campaign to save Stockport Court
Ann Coffey MP today stepped up the fight in Parliament to save Stockport Courthouse.
Speaking during a backbench debate in the Commons Chamber, she urged the Ministry of Justice to rethink the closure and said the consultation proposals were a “dog’s breakfast”.
The financial case had not been made and that there was no evidence that the closure would lead to better access to justice for Stockport people, she said.
Ms Coffey said the proposals should have been “bolder and more radical”. For example long delays in bringing cases to the Crown Court in Manchester could be tackled by having more jury trials heard in local courthouses like Stockport.
“I am concerned about delays in bringing cases to the Crown Court in Manchester and would like to have seen wider proposals for using existing court buildings. It can’t be right that traumatised child victims have to wait for months to give their evidence.
“I would urge the minister to be bolder and more radical in meeting his aspiration for using courts to bring quick and fairer access to justice.”
She said the consultation process on court closures had not provided sufficient information or financial costings and that basic information as to why one court closes and another stays open had not been provided other than the overall operating costs of those courts proposed for closure.
The workload of Stockport Courthouse will be transferred to Manchester and Salford and Ms Coffey said she was concerned about the long travelling times for constituents.
“I do not want travelling time to be a deterrent for witnesses,” she said.
“Underlying these proposals is a presumption that the majority of people using the Court in Stockport travel by car. I would argue that this is not the case as many vulnerable and disadvantaged people who use the courts travel by public transport, she said.
“The Ministry of Justice says it takes 15 minutes by train to Greater Manchester from Stockport but this is unrealistic as it does not involve travelling time from home to Stockport station and onto the court. For example the total journey time to Manchester from Heaton Mersey in my constituency is one hour and three minutes involving a train and two buses and from Brinnington one hour 4 minutes also involving a train and two buses.
“It cannot be right that on the basis of these proposals an area with a distinct identity from Manchester and a population of 284,000 will be left without a court and access to the local justice system.”
“I cannot support the closure of Stockport Magistrates and County Court because I see no evidence that this closure will lead to better access to justice for my constituents and I do not think the financial case has been made.
“Local people with expertise and a wealth of knowledge of the criminal justice and family courts locally do not feel that the proposals give the depth of information that is needed for them to give proper consideration to the proposals.
“They need to feel if the Stockport Courthouse is closed it will lead to a better justice system for local people. The closure of the court would be a blow to Stockport.”
Ms Coffey recently asked a series of parliamentary questions to find out more about the individual operating costs of each court for things such as travel, loss of earnings and childcare but was told the information was not held centrally.
“How can it be that this information is not available now for people to consider as part of the consultation? This all feels like a very disconnected consultation process with piecemeal proposals when really we should be considering all the changes to the criminal justice system together. It is a dog’s breakfast.”
The MOJ proposals include the closure of Macclesfield Court and the transfer of its workload to Crewe.
Ms Coffey suggested a better option would be to transfer the business of Macclesfield Magistrates County Court and Family hearing Centre work to Stockport and retain Stockport Magistrates and County Court.
She said: “This would be easier for Macclesfield people, There is a good train and bus service between Stockport and Macclesfield and train travel from Crewe to Macclesfield is almost double the time from Crewe to Macclesfield.”
Ms Coffey said that she supported the Section 28 pilots of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 for the pre-recorded cross examination of vulnerable child witnesses. If there was evidence of shorter cross examinations then this would have implications for court usage.
Link to Ann Coffey MP’s speech in the House of Commons debate on the Courts and Tribunals Services in England and Wales – http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2015-09-17a.1265.0#g1271.0