Council fails in bid to save Flintshire courthouse

Reporter:

Lois Hough

A HISTORIC courthouse in Flintshire will close its doors, it has been announced.


Flint Magistrates’ Court will shut as part of a wider programme to close 142 courts in England and Wales.


The decision was announced in Parliament yesterday by Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly MP.


It is thought the building on Chapel Street costs more than £10,000 a year to operate, with noticeably higher costs recorded in 2009-10 owing to “extraordinary” items.


Members of Flint Town Council have fought a tireless battle to keep the court open and encourage wider use for it since plans for closure were first announced in July.
Delyn MP David Hanson has condemned the decision to close.


He said: “I am deeply disappointed with the governments decision to close Flint Magistrates’ Court.


“Only last year I received written assurances from the Labour government that there were no plans to close the court.


“I always believed that there was a case for keeping Flint Magistrates’ Court open and I have been making strong representations to the coalition government in recent months.


“The Flint Courthouse has been an important and historic working body in the town and the government's decision today will lead to inconveniences for those that need to attend proceedings and will have a detrimental impact on the provisions of justice in Flint and the surrounding area.”


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.


Also to close are Denbigh Magistrates’ Court and Rhyl County Court.


He said: “We are closing the worst courts in the estate – so we can concentrate our limited resources on the best ones.


“We are investing in the court estate with new buildings and with refurbishment of facilities.


“There will be longer journeys for some to their closest court but we should not operate courts just to shave minutes off a journey that many will never need to make.


“Access to justice is not just about access to buildings. It’s about the type of justice delivered, decent facilities for victims and witnesses and efficient use of the system.”


The courthouse was one of 103 magistrates’ courts and 54 county courts across England and Wales considered under-used or inadequate facing closure.


It is thought the closures will save about £15.3m per year.


Flint has had some form of court stretching back more than 700 years with the administration of justice originating in the area at the town’s castle.


Flint Coleshill councillor David Cox, who has been a magistrate for 20 years, said: “This is a sad day for the people of Flint and a sad day for justice.


“We are losing another vital service from the town and it was much easier and cheaper for local people to come here rather than having to travel elsewhere.
“I am bitterly disappointed about this decision.”


Flint Castle councillor Ian Roberts said: “This is a very sad day for Flint and the surrounding areas.


“I’m extremely disappointed with the decision that has been taken.”

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