Following a consultation period started in July 2015 it was announced in February 2016 by Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service that Wakefield Magistrates’ Court would be one of 86 courts and tribunals to close.

With those 86 courts accounting for nearly one fifth of the 460 courts in England and Wales, it was a sweeping move that has caused much controversy amongst local MPs, councillors and various local communities up and down the country. Wakefield’s court is due to close on 30 September 2016 and all the cases covered by that district (the court’s official title is Wakefield and Pontefract Magistrates’ Court) will be transferred to Leeds Magistrates’ Court as of 3 October 2016. This is despite Wakefield Council voting unanimously against the impending closure in July 2015 when the plans were first unveiled.

Why Wakefield’s court is to close

Justice Minister Shailesh Vara explained in February that it cost £500 million to maintain the courts across the country, many of which were “under-used and dilapidated”. It was claimed that maintaining this expenditure was “unsustainable” particularly when 48% of these court buildings were empty and un-used at least half of the time, and that the closures and reforms would equate to raising £40 million to be re-invested in the justice system.

Speaking specifically about Wakefield’s court in the consultation paper, the Minister described the facilities as “sub-standard and out-of-date” and “unsuitable for modern technology”.

Moving to Leeds Magistrates’ Court

With cases now being moved to Leeds, an 11-mile journey by car, the move to close the Wakefield court was justified by the Minister with the comment that in the digital age, access to justice would not be diminished. It was also claimed that, country-wide, people could still reach their nearest court “within the hour by car” following the closures, although people travelling from some areas of Wakefield to Leeds by public transport may dispute this.

Nevertheless, Leeds Magistrates’ Court – which deals with both criminal and children’s cases – is described as having sufficient capacity to take on Wakefield’s cases, and in addition to being a modern building with good facilities is at least centrally located in the city centre adjacent to the Town Hall.

Trusted and expert legal advice and representation in Leeds

Ison Harrison is perfectly located in Leeds City Centre to service cases due in the magistrates’ court, and as one of the biggest law firms in the city – and indeed firmly within the top 20 law firms in Yorkshire – we are here and ready to help new clients in all aspects of the law. We have specialist teams of solicitors and lawyers all dedicated to serving your individual needs with expert advice, personal attention and dedicated professionalism.

We understand that travelling to another city for legal advice and court proceedings can be daunting, so we have a team of over 190 friendly and compassionate professionals who have many years’ experience and an unrivalled reputation in successfully representing clients in all areas of the law. We specialise in criminal and family law and throughout the company adopt an enthusiastic and positive culture based on good communication and trusted advice.

Richard Pinto, Partner and Manager of our Castleford office comments on the closure as follows:

“Clients around the Castleford and Pontefract areas that are affected by the Magistrates’ Court closure and the movement of its caseload to Leeds can still attend at our Castleford office and will not be required to travel all the way to Leeds to meet with a criminal solicitor.

Your case can be prepared in Castleford so that you do not have to incur any additional costs by travelling to and from Leeds, should the need to attend our office arise, this will also save time.

Any alleged local offences can be dealt with by people with knowledge of the local area which is of significant help when dealing with specific cases, such as road traffic offences. With 10 offices located throughout West Yorkshire, the experience and knowledge of our criminal advocates is second to none. We can assist clients with any enquiry they may have, should you have any queries do not hesitate to contact the Castleford office directly on 01977 557171 or alternatively by e-mail.

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