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Argument to close Sutton Coldfield court is flawed says Sutton Coldfield,s MP - local news
THE basis for the planned closure of Sutton Coldfield Magistrates' Court is 'fundamentally flawed', Sutton Coldfield town's MP has said in a letter written to the Secretary of State for Justice, as the consultation period enters its final month.

Sutton Coldfield MP Andrew Mitchell has set out detailed reasons in the letter to fellow cabinet member, Ken Clarke MP, requesting he bear his concerns in mind when the future of the court is decided.

Mr Mitchell said the Sutton Coldfield court remains a visible and practical facility in Sutton Coldfield located next to an upgraded police station.

He said: "The strategy of centralising on large courts challenges the principles of local justice.

Mr Mitchell,Sutton Coldfield MP and Secretary of State for International Development, said the reasons given for rejecting the closure in 2003, including the population size and the high utilisation of the court room, were just as applicable today.

"The population size has almost certainly not reduced," Mr Mitchell said. "The utilisation figure, for four courts, rather than the previous five, averages 89.9 per cent to the 12 months to June 2010, comfortably ahead of the target of 80 per cent set by HMCS."

The fifth court has been used for improved and extended waiting facilities which Mr Mitchell said addressed one of the court service's claimed inadequacies.

The claim that Sutton's facilities were not up to standard has not been backed up and he believes issues could be resolved at 'low cost'.

He said it was 'disingenuous' to use HMCS's 'apparent calculated neglect' in not providing investment since 2003 as an argument for the Sutton Coldfields court's closure.

The service claims £195,000 would be required in backlog maintenance.

Mr Mitchell argues the cost and inconvenience of travelling to Victoria Law Courts in Birmingham were underestimated by HMCS. In the letter to Mr Clarke, he said these factors were particularly an issue for youths, young families and senior citizens attending the court as defendants or witnesses.

And he criticised Birmingham Magistrates' Court.

He said: "It is a perverse argument and a high-risk strategy to create a single solution, without any contingency, based around a building previously determined as not fit for purpose."

"It is one thing to centralise back office administrative functions, it is another to do it for the community facing judicial process."

Mr Mitchell believes an alternative solution would be to marry the court infrastructure with the geographic centres recently established by the police at each main compass point.

He suggested using Sutton Coldfield's facilities for Lichfield and Aldridge where courts have closed and for Tamworth, which is part of the present consultation process.

He added: "The argument for closing the court at Sutton Coldfield is fundamentally flawedtotally disregarding the well-founded principles of local justice and consideration for the community."

The consultation period on the provision of court services ends on September 15 with the future of Sutton Coldfield Magistrates' Court's to be decided thereafter.
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Posted On:  20 August, 2010
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