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Warning local justice under threat after trials moved out of Skipton Magistrates’ Court

Thursday, 24 March 2022 16:14

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter

Skipton councillors have warned local justice is once again under threat after criminal trials were moved out of the town’s magistrates’ court.

After being threatened with closure in 2001 and 2010, Skipton Magistrates’ Court has not had any scheduled trial time since a review earlier in the pandemic – with not guilty cases reportedly being sent to Harrogate, York and as far as Scarborough.

The changes have been described as “absolute lunacy” by Ribblesdale councillor David Staveley who said: “I just don’t think this is acceptable in any way shape or form.”

He told a recent North Yorkshire County Council meeting: “It’s very difficult to get public transport out of Craven in the direction of the alternative law courts that have been suggested – not least the ones at the far flung reaches of the county.

“We must make a stand on this as we have done before.”

Skipton West councillor Andy Solloway also said people should not have to travel “miles and miles to get justice”.

Back in 2010, the axe fell on nine of Yorkshire’s courthouses, but Skipton Magistrates’ Court was spared after a campaign backed by Skipton and Ripon MP Julian Smith and the local branch of the Magistrates Association.

The closures were part of national plans to shut 103 magistrates and 54 county courts across the country in a move which was estimated to save almost £37 million in maintenance and running costs.

In a statement this week, the HM Courts & Tribunals Service said the recent changes at Skipton Magistrates’ Court were introduced to ensure cases could be heard “safely and with minimum delay” during the pandemic.

It said no decision has been taken to permanently remove criminal trials from Skipton and that “special arrangements” can be made to hear trials locally.

A spokesperson for the HM Courts & Tribunals Service said: “While listing is a judicial function, the pandemic forced some cases to be moved to ensure cases could be heard safely and with minimum delay.

“Skipton Law Courts continue to hear civil and family cases and special arrangements can be made to hear cases locally.

“Although there is presently no scheduled trial time in Skipton, in individual cases travel distance can be considered when the case is listed and special arrangements can be made to hear cases locally.”

The Skipton courthouse also houses the county court which deals with civil and family hearings, and these cases are listed every day of the week.

It is the North and West Yorkshire Judicial Delivery Group which is responsible for listing arrangements for cases in Skipton and other magistrates’ courts across the region.

The body will hold a review into court patterns in June.


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