Andrew Tyrie "deeply concerned" about court closure

Rt Hon Andrew Tyrie MP comments on the planned closure of Chichester’s courts:

“I am deeply concerned by reports that Chichester Crown Court is being closed without first putting in place suitable local alternative provision. The Ministry of Justice gave a firm commitment that the court would not be closed until this was in place – both to me in correspondence, and in the House of Commons. Closing the courts without a reasonable alternative would be very bad for my constituents. They would be faced with unacceptable travel times to reach the nearest court. It would also be a breach of faith by the Ministry.

The decision to close the Crown Court was a mistake. I argued against it vigorously at the time. As a result of recent Freedom of Information requests, it now appears that the Ministry itself acknowledged at the time of their decision that other courts might not be able to absorb Chichester’s workload.

The decision might have been more understandable if a sound economic case had been made in support of it. As far as I’m aware, no such case exists. The latest documents obtained through Freedom of Information requests support this conclusion.

There seems to be no underlying economic logic at all behind the decision. A comparison with East Sussex is relevant. East Sussex has 10 Crown Court rooms. West Sussex, with a larger population and geographical area, looks set to be left with no Crown Court at all.

The Ministry of Justice owe my constituents an explanation, and I will be pressing them for it. In the meantime, the Government should keep this court open.”

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On 4th May 2016, in answer to a written question from Andrew Tyrie MP, then-Under-Secretary of State for Justice Shailesh Vara said:

“All responses to the consultation were carefully considered before the decision was made to close the courts in Chichester. This included evaluating the impact on the police, the District Council and other local services. In recognition of the particular circumstances of court users in Chichester, the Combined Court Centre will not close until suitable local alternative provision is in place.”