The Ministry of Justice can try to put forward a case that the closure of another magistrates’ court is not just about selling off a huge building in a prime location, but we doubt any jury in the country would agree with them.
Savings to the public purse have to be made, but please do not try to argue that it is all about efficiency or streamlining services, as the closure of Camberwell Magistrates’ Court will do neither.
Its closure, announced on Wednesday, comes despite overwhelming opposition during the consultation period in September, from amongst others judges, court staff, the police and three MPs.
There are even fears that it will result in a rise in gang violence and lead to potential miscarriages of justice, as the youth court is moved to Bromley Magistrates’ Court and all other defendants have to make their way to Croydon.
Most young defendants who are connected to gang crime are wary of travelling into different postcodes, never mind different boroughs. The fear is they will get their friends to accompany them to court, creating extra work for police fearing turf warfare.
And in Croydon, which by the way has less space and fewer cells than Camberwell, they are so overstretched that cases are listed with over three months’ delay. More delays may lead the judiciary to rush through cases and so increase the chances of miscarriages of justice.
In Southwark we have already seen in recent years the closure of Tower Bridge Magistrates’ Court and now Camberwell.
And what is Tower Bridge Magistrates’ Court now? It is going to open as a boutique hotel and there is little doubt that a horde of developers will be vying to snap up the impressive ground space that Camberwell magistrates’ takes up.
But will the new residents and visitors to either site be able to sleep safer in their beds at night?