The Bury Society has criticised plans to close the town’s magistrates’ court, saying it will stretch the idea of local justice ‘to breaking point’.
Society chairman Tim Page said an important link between the townsfolk and justice system could be ‘sacrificed at the alter of austerity’.
He said: “If you think about what in essence the magistrates court is all about, it is the rule of law by our peers.
“The law works when it is seen to be working and it requires the consent of every citizen.
“A key part of that is that certain lower level crimes are dealt with locally by local people.
“Closing the town’s magistrates’ court will stretch to breaking point the while idea of local justice in this county.
“In essence it will mean the end of local justice.”
Mr Page said he was also concerned about people in West Suffolk being put off from the idea of becoming magistrates if it means travelling to a court miles away from their local area.
“The Bury Society is dismayed at the diminution of out town’s civic status that the loss of the court would represent,” he added.
Suffolk County Councillor Trevor Beckwith, a former magistrate himself, said the Ministry of Justice’s proposal was ‘just wrong’.
“I really think it is an awful move,” he said
“When I first sat on the bench in 1996 we used to have courts in Bury St Edmunds, Haverhill, Mildenhall, Sudbury, Stowmarket, Thetford, and more.
“The whole principle is local justice for local people.
“That is what it is all supposed to be about.
“When you are listening on a case it’s a lot better if the magistrates have local knowledge.”
Local historian Martyn Taylor even disputes the details published about the building in the report.
The consultation document says the ‘inadequate’ building dates from 1841 but Mr Taylor disagrees.
“That particular building dates back to 1906/07, not 1841,” he said.
“It was designed by local architect Archie Ainsworth-Hunt, the same man who designed college square in Bury.
“The current building was purpose built as a court with court rooms and cells.”
Mr Taylor thinks the report confuses it with the previous court built in 1841 which was knocked down and replaced by the new Shire Hall.