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Government accused of breaking promises in Dudley magistrates row
11:53am Monday 14th October 2013 in News
THE Government is being accused of going back on promises to magistrates keep a criminal court in Dudley.
Consultation over controversial proposals that would see Halesowen criminals, victims and witnesses having to travel to courts as far away as Wolverhampton, leaving Dudley with only civil and family cases, is due to end on Monday.
It is three years since criminal cases were moved from Halesowen Magistrates Court, which was finally closed in 2011, and now the Courts and Tribunal Service's preferred option to regionalise justice even further has horrified Dudley North MP Ian Austin.
He said the changes which, if approved, will come into effect on January 1 next year, fly in the face of what magistrates were told - that they would be able hear cases in their local court.
The Labour MP has taken the fight to Westminster by putting a series of tough questions to Justice Secretary Chris Garyling.
Mr Austin said: “The more we learn about these proposals to close Dudley’s criminal court, the more problems come to light.
“It’s already clear the closure would end local justice, but now it’s emerging the Government has gone back on promises to local magistrates and has ignored the full costs of closure.
“In fact, the Government’s plans are so flawed they could be open to judicial review. It’s a complete shambles."
Mr Austin is leading a campaign calling for the plan to be scrapped and says a petition against the proposal has already gained hundreds of signatures.
He said if the plan is adopted, travel costs for victims and witnesses will be forced up and justice will no longer be seen to be done in Dudley, which would become the largest town in England with no criminal court.
A spokesman for HM Courts and Tribunal Service said: "We have asked people for their views, to talk about that before the consultation closes would be to prejudge it and I wouldn't want to do that."
For more details or to take part in the consultation email WMWJCO@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk with Black Country Listing Consultation in the subject field.
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