Proposals to close a number of courts and tribunals across the city – including Lambeth County Court – have been slammed as “potentially disastrous” for Southwark residents.
The closures will force residents fighting against eviction to travel even further from their homes in the borough, something that Southwark Council Leader Peter John worries will put them at an “automatic disadvantage.”
He told the News: “I think it’s a potentially disastrous move for the borough’s most vulnerable residents. Some of these people lead disorganised lives. If this closure means that residents need to get to East Putney or to the Royal Courts of justice, I’m concerned they won’t get there.
“You’re going to put at an automatic disadvantage some of the most vulnerable residents in the borough.”
He pledged to fight to make it as easy as possible for residents to get to court to work out their housing situation and promised to put “the strongest representation” to the Ministry of Justice against the closures going ahead.
Under the new changes, residents travelling from Peckham will find their journey time increased from just 39 minutes to Lambeth County Court to 1 hour 45 minutes to Wandsworth County Court.
Journey times from Bermondsey and Rotherhithe are similarly extended.
Angus King, a solicitor with the Cambridge House Law Centre, said: “The closure of Lambeth County Court will lead to an increase in evictions and homelessness, putting an even greater strain on already stretched resources.”
The government’s courts and tribunal service, however, argue that the threatened facilities are chronically under-used, on average lying empty two thirds of the time.
Courts and Tribunals Minister, Shailesh Vara, also added that courts would be required less and less as technology improved and the justice system became more streamlined.
She said: “Access to justice is not just about attending court. As we bring in digital technology for better and more efficient access to justice, fewer people will need to physically be in a court.
“This means that we will need fewer buildings, and with many already underused and in poor quality, now is a good time to review the estate.”
Consultation on the proposed closures will take place until October 8. Have your say at http://bit.ly/1e2i5Is.