Despite the announcement that Bury Magistrates Court will be closed, I have consistently argued that a local justice provision is absolutely essential both for the town and for the wider region. I am in no doubt that without any such provision, residents will be forced to travel a significant distance - with some of my constituents facing a forty-five mile trip - to be able to access justice facilities.
Therefore, the announcement that a suitable alternative local provision would be established in place of Bury Magistrates Court, is an important step in ensuring the needs and interests of Bury St Edmunds are met.
I have spoken with Mr Shailesh Vara, Parliamentary-Under-Secretary of State for Justice and representatives from HM Courts and Tribunals Service. We have discussed the delivery of local justice to Bury St Edmunds to involve the following measures;
The formation of a local implementation group comprising local judicial representatives. This group will work to deliver an agreed alternative provision for local justice in Bury St Edmunds whilst planning for the closure of Bury St Edmunds Magistrates Courts at Old Shire Hall. This group will also be able to explore other options in consultation with local stakeholders. It is expected the consultation process will be completed by September;
The delivery of plans to relocate family cases to the newly refurbished Triton House, Bury St Edmunds which will include video link technology for vulnerable witnesses and victims to access;
The consideration of plans to reassign work to alternative sites within the region or for the establishment of local justice to the Public Service Village in Bury St Edmunds.
For a town which oversaw the founding of Magna Carta, justice has always been a cornerstone of Bury St Edmunds. I feel that these plans acknowledge the specific needs of our area; aiming to preserve access to local justice and see it delivered upon by our local judicial representatives. I will continue to push for the development of a Public Service Village which encompasses justice services, as a site already intending to operate other public services.
Yet what is important, is that any alternative arrangements reassures that local justice is maintained and delivered for Bury St Edmunds. Only once detailed plans are developed will they be presented to Ministers. Nevertheless, I will continue to work closely with Ministers, officials and local representatives, as well as my regional colleagues, to ensure resident's access local justice.