[ Sutton Magistrates’ Court, in Wallington – click on any of the pictures on this site to see them full size ]
“The certainty of justice and the visibility of justice is eroded if justice is not sufficiently local.”
This was the message given by Councillor Richard Clifton, in his maiden speech since being elected to Sutton Council, on 6 December, when he called on the Ministry of Justice to re-think the proposal it has recently floated to close the only Magistrates’ Court House in Sutton, in Wallington.
Councillor Clifton stressed that important decisions that affect redress, justice and even people’s liberty will be taken on the basis of poorer evidence if people – including the victims of crime and witnesses to crime – are deterred from attending Court by the distance they have to travel.
He stressed two particular consequences:
– cases are lost because key witnesses do not show up
– magistrates from Sutton have a detailed and personal knowledge of the pertinent local issues, helpful in understanding a case such as a road traffic case, and this will be lost.
He was responding to a challenge by Tory Councillors to justify a statement in a motion presented to Council by Liberal Democrat Councillors, that the proposed closure would have an “inevitably damaging effect.” The motion was eventually carried unanimously.
However, despite forceful lobbying and representations by local groups, the Ministry of Justice has now announced the planned closure of the Court house. Councillor Clifton said “I called for the campaign to continue as I felt the arguments were on our side. I am disappointed that the campaign has not come to a successful conclusion.”