Police commissioner slams closure of Wakefield and Calderdale magistrates’ courts

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The closure of magistrates’ courts in Wakefield and Halifax has been criticised by West Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner.

Mark Burns-Williamson attacked the move after it was confirmed they were among 86 courts in England and Wales to close over the next 18 months.

Some witnesses and defendants will have to travel further when court hearings are centralised in Bradford, Leeds and Huddersfield.

Mr Burns-Williamson said: “I wholeheartedly disagree with these planned closures and have previously written to the Ministry of

Justice (MOJ) to oppose these plans to close courts in Calderdale and Wakefield.”

Cases currently heard at Wakefield Magistrates’ Court will move to Leeds after a consultation on the future of courts was carried out last year.

Calderdale’s magistrates’s and county court will also be shut down and cases will be heard at Bradford Combined Court.

Fears have been raised that closing courts will restrict open justice and make it harder for victims, witnesses and defendants to attend hearings.

Mr Burns-Williamson said: “Going to court can be a difficult experience for victims and witnesses. By denying local access in this way the government is making it even more difficult for many people.”

Wakefield Council has also voiced it opposition to the closures.

Graham Stokes, cabinet member for modern public services, said: “This is an outrageous decision and is not in the interests of local people.

“Journey times to Leeds from many parts of the Wakefield district are difficult and time-consuming, particularly for people without cars who are reliant on public transport.

“When this is taken alongside cuts to legal aid, the closure of local courts will severely restrict people’s access to justice.”