Local politicians have rounded on the government’s plans to shut Camberwell Green Magistrates’ Court and move cases to Croydon, where there are already three-month delays.
The News reported in September that the Ministry of Justice is consulting on the idea of closing the 1960s building – as well as 85 other courts across Britain – although this has yet to be confirmed.
Now, Dulwich and West Norwood MP Helen Hayes has revealed that she wrote to the Justice Minister opposing the government’s plans “in the strongest possible terms”.
Helen said she felt “dismayed” that the Camberwell Magistrates’ and Youth courts, both located in D’Eynsford Road, will shut – even after Lambeth County Court had been closed last year.
She wrote: “As you will be aware, Camberwell Green and Croydon Magistrates’ Courts share the workload of all cases arising from the London boroughs of Sutton, Croydon, Southwark and Lambeth. Camberwell is the only court which sits on Saturdays, and manages cases from all across the London South Local Justice Area.
“I am concerned that the closure… will significantly reduce access to justice for my constituents.” She then adds her concerns for local residents who cannot afford to regularly travel by train, and do not have a car, meaning their “attendance in court will be much more challenging”, and “particularly” for “vulnerable young people” instead having to travel to Wimbledon. Helen then points out that Croydon is “already listing cases with three month delays”, and suggests “detailed investment plans” must be produced for how Croydon Mags’ Court will be brought up to speed.
Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate for Camberwell and Peckham, Michael Bukola, has told the News that closing Camberwell Mags’ “beggars belief”.
“Clearly this is prime space for a developer looking to build in this ward,” Michael said. “It would leave this borough without a magistrates’ court at all, and the nearest one being Lavender Hill in Lambeth. The idea is that Southwark cases would be transferred over to Croydon. This is very concerning for an area like ours with a high crime profile.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “We want a system that works for everyone which means ensuring people have access to justice. The closures are proposed on the basis that the services provided by both these courts can be delivered at other sites, which in turn will improve the use and efficiency of the estate in London.”