THE gavel fell for the last time at an historic courthouse yesterday.
It is the end of an era for Flint Magistrates’ Court, which will close its doors officially next month.
Magistrates past and present gathered for the last sitting and reminisced on times gone by.
The closure of the Chapel Street courthouse, built in 1966, was announced by Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly in December following a court reform consultation which started in June.
A total of 93 magistrates’ courts and 49 county courts will close under the Government’s cost-cutting plans.
It is thought the building costs more than £10,000 a year to run, with noticeably higher costs recorded in 2009-10 owing to “extraordinary” items.
Charles Ley JP, who organised the nostalgic reunion, was a magistrate in Flint between 1968-1999.
Mr Ley, 82, told the Leader: “It is a very sad day for the history of Flint. Justice had been administered in this town since 1361 – firstly at Flint Castle and then on Church Street.
“Magistrates sat in the town hall before this court was built in 1966. This is a loss of an important local facility. It is such a shame.”
John Humphreys JP, 78, was the first chairman at the court after Flint, Hawarden and Mold amalgamated to become the Flintshire bench in 1998. He said how he
“heard every kind of case.”
Ronald Ellis, 89, was deputy clerk between 1959-1985 after he served as a policeman and a mechanic in the RAF.
He said: “I enjoyed every minute, especially the company of the wonderful magistrates.
“They were very good together. In those days they had a little bit more power.
“It’s a very sad day indeed.”
Patricia Davies JP, who has been a magistrate at Flint since 1994 and still sits at Mold, added: “There was a wonderful camaraderie.
“Everyone was polite and pleasant and were happy to sit with one another.”
Members of Flint Town Council have fought a long battle to keep the court open and encourage wider use for it.
Mr Djanogly announced that £22 million of capital will be reinvested to improve and modernise the courts to which work will transfer as a result of the closures.
Christopher Boulter, who trained as a barrister, was a clerk at the court between 1985-1999.
He said: “People appearing at Flint Magistrates’ Court came by train from all over the country because it was very easy to get to.
“Now they will be appearing at Mold but getting there is more difficult.”
Alan Bayliss, 72, worked as a clerk from 1977-1997.
He added: “Flint Magistrates’ Court was the epitome of local justice being administered.
“Justice will no longer have the same local flavour as it once did because of the move to centralisation.”