Government plans to close 91 courts and tribunals could mean many people no longer have ready access to justice, the Law Society has claimed.
In a recently published consultation, the Ministry of Justice announced plans to close approximately one fifth of all existing courts and tribunals in England and Wales and to merge a further 31.
The Law Society, which represents solicitors in England and Wales, has now issued an official response, saying the closures could threaten the principle of access to justice by leaving many people unable to attend courts in the local area, facing possibly expensive journeys to other towns or cities.
The Ministry has also failed to explain the criteria used to select courts for closure or merger, the Society notes. The report even contains a number of factual errors.
Society President Jonathan Smithers said the planned closures could have damaging long-term effects.
“A majority of these proposed court closures will make it more difficult for a significant number of people to get to court, and the closures will more adversely affect people living in rural areas, those with disabilities and lower income families. Combined with the further planned increases in court fees and reductions in eligibility for legal aid, many of the proposed closures will serve to deepen the inequalities in the justice system between those who can and cannot afford to pay.”
The Law Society’s full response to the proposals is available here.
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