The government has today confirmed it will close Camberwell Green Magistrates’ Court at the end of 2018.
Local magistrates’ courts are where all criminal cases are first heard, while only the most serious of cases are moved to crown court.
A report signed off by the Lord Chief of Justice, Tory MP Elizabeth Truss, has said the effects will be:
- That hearings for those defendants under the age of eighteen will be relocated to Bromley Magistrates’ Court
- Hearings for defendants over the age of eighteen will be relocated to Croydon Magistrates’ Court
Housing possession work, which was going to be moved to Camberwell after a decision to close Lambeth County Court, will instead happen at Southwark’s three local crown courts.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) ran a consultation on proposals to shut Camberwell court, and Hammersmith court, between September 15 and October 26 last year.
More than 62 responses came from three local MPs, eleven judges, magistrates, court staff, and thirteen public sector bodies, including Southwark Council and the Met Police.
One local magistrate who preferred not to be named told the News: “Camberwell has about three times more cells than Croydon, which is where cases will be moved to.
“Camberwell’s court is also an extremely valuable building. It has two levels of underground car parking, and it’s in a prime location.”
He said he believed the consultation “wasn’t really a consultation”, rather it was “already a done deal”.
Dulwich and West Norwood MP Helen Hayes wrote MoJ minister Oliver Heald last year to say she was “concerned” the closure “will significantly reduce access to justice for my constituents”.
“Attendance in court will be much more challenging,” she said, particularly for “vulnerable young people”.
She pointed out that Croydon Magistrates’ Court is “already listing cases with three-month delays”.
On the timing of the closure, the MoJ report said: “Our implementation plans are currently projecting that the building will cease to provide a public service between October and December 2018, but this is subject to change as our plans are further developed.”
A statement signed by Paul Harris, transformation director from the MoJ, said: “We have carefully considered the impact on court users concerning travel to attend a hearing and we believe that access to justice will be maintained following these closures.”
He added: “Staff, judiciary and partner agencies who work hard to administer and deliver justice will obviously be affected by these changes, including those in crown courts.
“I am committed to working closely with the judiciary on the implementation of these changes and am equally committed to supporting staff and ensuring that the transition to the new arrangements takes place in a fair and transparent manner.”
The MoJ has said the money raised from selling the court would “be reinvested into the transformation of the HM Courts & Tribunals Service to modernise courts and tribunals”.
An HMCTS spokesperson said: “We have a world leading legal system and are investing £1bn to modernise our courts and tribunals to deliver justice that is efficient, simple and works for everyone.
“London has the densest concentration of magistrates’ courts in the country and we are confident access to justice can be maintained and significant savings for re-investment in our court reforms can be achieved through these closures.”