The Government has announced that Redhill Magistrates’ Court and Family Court, and Reigate County Court and Family Court, are to close.
The courts, based at Hatchlands Road, could shut their doors as early as the first quarter of 2017. Criminal matters will move to Guildford and Staines, and family and county court work “primarily” to Guildford.
Across England and Wales 86 courts will close, as part of a modernisation drive and to reduce the cost of running court buildings.
Prior to the decision, a consultation was undertaken. On the local proposals, 77 responses were received from individuals and organisations. Two were neutral, with the rest opposing the plans. Concerns included travel times to Guildford and Staines, and whether the two centres would be able to handle the workload. The accuracy of the 49% utilisation figure given for the current site was also challenged.
Conservative MP for Reigate, Crispin Blunt, gave his reaction to the closure announcement:
“I am very disappointed that the courts in Reigate will close. We had put forward very strong arguments for a continuing presence in Reigate, not least because defendants – including those held at the nearby new custody suite in Salfords, witnesses, lawyers, council officers and the public will have to travel to Guildford or Staines for hearings. Surrey will be left with only two courts at Guildford and Staines, which will have insufficient capacity to cope with the current workload of cases, causing longer delays.
I only hope that the planned investment to install modern IT systems will be enough to reduce the need for people to travel to court, except for the most sensitive and complex cases.”
Making the national announcement in a written statement on Thursday, the Minister for the Courts and Legal Aid, Shailesh Vara MP, said:
“The government is committed to modernising the way in which justice is accessed and delivered. We are investing over £700m over the next 4 years to update the court and tribunal estate, installing modern IT systems and making the justice system more efficient and effective for modern users.
Working closely with the judiciary, we have begun installing Wi-Fi and digital systems in our criminal courts but much more needs to be done. We want to make the entire justice system more accessible to everyone – witnesses, victims, claimants, police and lawyers – by using modern technology including online plea, claims and evidence systems and video conferencing, reducing the need for people to travel to court.
As part of this modernisation, the court and tribunal estate has to be updated. Many of the current 460 court buildings are underused: last year 48% of all courts and tribunals were empty for at least half their available hearing time. These buildings are expensive to maintain yet unsuitable for modern technology.”
The local closure date is provisionally given as January to March 2017, but this is subject to change.
HM Courts and Tribunals Service says that in 2014-15 the operating cost of the Hatchlands Road courts was £480,000.
Local decision and detail are at p.62 onwards of South East regional response (opens PDF)
HM Courts & Tribunal general webpage on decisions and process
Updated 16 Feb 2016