Council bosses who are fighting plans to close Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ Court are urging residents to provide evidence ‘of the damage it could do to local justice’.
St Edmundsbury Borough Council wants to know how the Government proposals would affect people if they had to attend the court as a witness, defendant or a legal representative.
The authority will use the evidence in its response to the plans and to strengthen its offer of moving the magistrates’ court to its expanding Public Service Village, in Western Way.
The Ministry of Justice says the court costs about £272,000 a year to run and its current building Shire Hall, on Honey Hill, is no longer fit for purpose.
Its consultation on the plans runs until October 8.
However, opponents of the move argue it would damage the idea of local justice and force staff, defendants and potentiallly vulnerable victims to travel to Ipswich when public transport in the area is limited.
Cllr John Griffiths. leader of St Edmundsbury, said: “Personally I find it astonishing that the Ministry of Justice would even consider closing our court, especially in such a rural area.
“For many here in West Suffolk and particularly those who rely on public transport, for example, getting to Ipswich for 10am could be an incredibly difficult challenge, not to mention getting home afterwards.
“Access to local justice is hugely important and I am asking people to let us know how this proposal would affect them if they had to attend as a witness, defendant or as a legal representative.
“We will then use this evidence in our own response to the consultation, and to strengthen the offer we have already made to government that they could share buildings, facilities and technology with us elsewhere in the town if the current court building is no longer fit for purpose.”
Examples of the difficulties the court’s closure would cause can be emailed by September 21 to firstname.lastname@example.org or posted to Cllr John Griffiths, St Edmundsbury Borough Council, West Suffolk House, Bury St Edmunds, IP33 3YU.