Michael Gove to look at court alternative for West Suffolk after he is quizzed by West Suffolk Conservatives
Justice Secretary Michael Gove has said that while there is no justification for a full time court facility in Bury St Edmunds he will look at alternatives for West Suffolk.
This pledge came after he was quizzed by West Suffolk conservatives at their annual dinner at Bedford Lodge Hotel in Newmarket on Friday where he was guest of honour.
Mr Gove spoke to several leading people who have campaigned against the closure of the Bury court including Tim Passmore, Police and Crime Commissioner, Jo Spicer, Suffolk County Councillor and Betty McLatchy, Haverhill Mayor.
He said the current building was under used but he would look at offering alternative court services in the future.
Tim Passmore spoke to Mr Gove and plans to meet him at the House of Commons to discuss the issue.
He said: “He told me that if we can come up with a suitable solution that saves money and improves access to justice he will do all he can to make it happen.
“The gold standard is access to justice and that people are innocent until proven guilty. The proposal to close Bury and Lowestoft courts is at odds with that.
“I would like to see a short stay of execution so we can look into things such as pop up courts or using public sector buildings and making better use of technology. I am sure we can improve access to justice.”
Mr Passmore added that closing the courts would impact not only on defendants and witnesses but also police officers, the voluntary sector, probabtion services and magistrates themselves. “We need to look at this in a much more joined up and holistic way,” he added.
West Suffolk Conservative Association chairman, Mary Evans, said: “I was really pleased that Mr Gove listened with great care as I explained to him the strength and depth of opposition to the proposal. Although he said the Bury court building will close it was very encouraging to hear him speak of providing court facilities not just in Bury but in Haverhill and Newmarket too.”
The Justice Secretary, who had visited Highpoint Prison earlier, said there was also an urgent need for prison reform to give prisoners the skills to find work and lead purposeful lives on their release.
Mr Gove presented a new award in memory of the association chairman Jill Simpson OBE to Sue Syvret, the association deputy chairman, political, who played a leading role locally in last year’s elections.