Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, took the Government to task on its proposals to close courts in Cambridge and across the UK in a debate this morning in Parliament.
The Ministry of Justice are currently consulting on their proposals to close Cambridge Magistrates‘ Court, claiming that the Court is under-utilised. Mr Zeichner and the Cambridge Labour Party have been campaigning against these proposals, highlighting the importance of local access to local justice, and the need to support vulnerable people in the justice system.
The proposals suggest moving cases from Cambridge to courts in Huntingdon and Peterborough, which could mean up to a three-hour round trip, along with added travel expenses, for Cambridge residents using the courts.
Daniel Zeichner MP told Parliament "The Government’s plans were met with astonishment and universal opposition in Cambridge. The Court is under-utilised because of lack of staff leading to long delays in scheduling cases. Cambridge Magistrates‘ Court should stay open."
Mr Zeichner comments: "I don’t always agree with the Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire, but even he has criticised this Conservative Government’s plans, calling them "disappointing" and "concerning". These proposals will disproportionately affect lower-income individuals, and could even hold back those who have been victims of crime from seeking justice.“
"This is a political choice. The Government have chosen to restrict staffing through a lack of resource at Cambridge Magistrates‘ Court, which means that it cannot operate to its full capacity, which creates what looks like under-utilisation on paper. However, it often takes many months for cases to come to Court – there is no shortage of demand for court use. The fact is, that this Government are more focused on scrimping on rent on the Court building, than they are on providing resources which would allow it to run properly, and give Cambridge residents the access to justice they deserve.“
The Ministry of Justice’s consultation ends on Thursday 29th March and can be found here, where you can also make a submission: https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/cambridge-magistrates-court-proposal-on-future/