Chorley court plan condemned by council

Councillors voted unanimously to ask the government to rethink the closure of Chorley Magistrates' Court.
Councillors voted unanimously to ask the government to rethink the closure of Chorley Magistrates' Court.
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Chorley Council has called for the government to reconsider the closure of the town’s magistrates’ court.

A hastily-arranged motion on the subject won unanimous support, just hours after it emerged the facility was to shut.

Council leader Alistair Bradley told a meeting of the full council that he had spoken to Chorley MP Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who was “rampaging around Westminster, before people go on their holidays, trying to get answers from ministers”.

Cllr Bradley also blasted the build-up to the closure announcement, which he said had seen the volume of work at the court deliberately reduced.

“If you want to get an evidence base to close a service, you run it down and move the business elsewhere,” he said.

“We have started to see a drift of business to other places [and then] government says, ‘Chorley’s not that busy, so we’ll close it.’ Well, it would have been busy if you had left that work there in the first place.”

The court sat for fewer than half of its available hours during 2017/18, but Cllr Bradley said that “on the sheer volume of population alone, Chorley deserves to have a magistrates’ court”.

“It provides an important local dispensation of justice. A lot of the people who sometimes fall foul of [the law in Chorley] find it difficult to travel to Preston,” he said.

The motion claims the move will result in additional costs, because Preston Magistrates’ Court will have to be modified so that it can cope with the extra workload.

The government has pledged that the money raised from the sale of the building in Chorley - and six others across the country - will be reinvested into the justice system.

But Cllr Badley told members that, if the town’s court cannot be saved, the government should consider alternative uses for the building as “reparation” for the decision.

“We need the legal professionals who work in the [local] offices and spend their money in our town centre day in day out - and who will probably now be under pressure to follow the courts to other places,” he said.

Deputy leader, Peter Wilson, added that the magistrates themselves are against the closure.