Speaking in the Commons chamber this morning, Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, asked Justice Minister Lucy Frazer to visit Cambridge Magistrates’ Court, to see its importance to the city. He said:
“Access to courts for people with disabilities will not be improved by closing courts. In response to my recent written question, it turns out that no minister this year has visited any of the courts that are due for closure at the moment. Could I implore the ministers to come to Cambridge and talk to people with disabilities to see what impact their plans will have.”
She did not agree to visit, instead evading the question by responding: “I am always happy to meet with people who use the courts service around the country. We are improving access in a number of ways. ” She went on to describe people gaining access court services by video link, a technology that the Justice Select Committee has recently warned is not up to scratch.
Daniel Zeichner recently found out that there have been no ministerial visits this year to any of the eight courts which the Ministry of Justice have proposed to close.
The courts that could be closed are: Cambridge, Maidenhead, Banbury, Northallerton, Fleetwood, Chorley, Wandsworth and Blackfriars.
Mr Zeichner comments: “I think it is completely unacceptable that after multiple invitations, including my invitation to Lucy in the House this morning, no minister has committed to coming to visit Cambridge Magistrates’ Court. It seems that the Tories are just trying to evade the issue, and bury their heads in the sand rather than face up to the real suffering that their proposals could cause. By closing our court, access to justice could be restricted -; this would disproportionately affect the most vulnerable in society. Why are ministers so afraid of hearing the truth?”
The Ministry of Justice’s 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.