Shock and anger over court closures in Calderdale

Halifax MP Holly Lynch and Councillor Tim Swift
Halifax MP Holly Lynch and Councillor Tim Swift

Campaigners who fought to save the courts in Halifax have hit out at the decision by the Government to shut down Calderdale Magistrates’ Court and Halifax (Calderdale) County Court.

An online movement entitled SAVE Halifax County Court and Family Court AND Halifax (Calderdale) Magistrates’ and Family Court from closure was created by the Halifax and Huddersfield Junior Lawyers Division.

Calderdale Councillors and MPs also joined the fight to keep the courts in Harrison Road Prescott Street open.

However the two courts which were included on a list released in July 2015, of courts facing the axe will be closed later this year.
Halifax MP Holly Lynch said: “I am shocked by this announcement; it goes against all the expert advice presented to the consultation and marks the end of 140 years of justice provision in Halifax.

“I recently met with the Conservative Justice Minister to explain to him how merging the two courts in Halifax would deliver a saving for the Government while also maintaining access to justice for the people of Calderdale. This would have actually saved the Government money compared to moving to Bradford.

“It’s a huge blow for Halifax from a government which once again has shown its determination to cut our local services no matter what the social or economic cost.”

The operations will now be moved to the court centres in Bradford.

The leader of Calderdale Council Councillor Tim Swift said: “I am very, very disappointed with this decision, we felt there was a much better option in combining the two courts in to the one existing building.

“It’s a massive disadvantage for Halifax and it’s going to make life harder for people using the court as the accused or as a witness. It’s going to make it much harder for ordinary people to access justice.

“We don’t think it will save any money, as they will have to spend money on the Bradford court.

“The council will be fighting this decision - I am very, very angry - they just don’t listen local people.”

He added that the closure goes against the Government’s rhetoric on the proposed ‘Northern Powerhouse’.

Responding to the government’s announcement that 86 courts will close in England and Wales, Law Society president Jonathan Smithers said: “We are disappointed that the government is pressing ahead with the closure of so many courts.

“The majority of these closures will make it more difficult for a significant number of people to get to court, disproportionately affecting people living in rural areas, those with disabilities and lower income families.

“Combined with increases in court fees and reductions in eligibility for legal aid, many of the closures will serve to deepen the inequalities in the justice system between those who can and cannot afford to pay.

“We welcome that five of the closures will not be going ahead and acknowledge that the government intends to make changes to its proposals for 22 courts following evidence submitted by our members. We look forward to continuing discussions about the revised proposals in these areas to ensure that access to justice problems are mitigated.

“No matter who you are, no matter where you live, everyone in England and Wales must be able to access legal advice and the justice system.”