Ian Austin MP

Labour MP for Dudley North

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Austin: magistrates set to quit over court closure plans

Dudley MP Ian Austin has said that local Magistrates are set to quit if plans to close Dudley’s criminal courts go ahead.

Austin revealed Magistrates’ threats to quit on Monday in his response to the consultation on the closure.

Amongst the criticisms Austin has received are:

• Colin Knipe, Ex-Chair of Dudley Magistrates who says “Lots of Dudley magistrates are seriously considering resigning. They are incensed because the only magistrates in the Black Country who have not been consulted about where they wish to sit next year are the 100+ Dudley Magistrates.”
• Chris Smith, Magistrate who says “Many local magistrates have already said that they will not be prepared to make longer journeys to other courts - especially bearing in mind that we get no pay whatsoever for carrying out these duties.”
• A magistrate who asked for their name to be withheld who says “Everyone on the Black Country Bench is unhappy with the proposals... Almost certainly I shall be resigning from the bench.”

The comments made were made to Austin in writing following his launch of a petition which has now attracted 1,200 signatures.

Austin has called for a debate on the issue in the House of Commons and has called on the Justice Secretary and his officials to meet with him.

Ian Austin MP said:

“These comments from local people deeply involved in Dudley’s criminal court show just how much damage the Government’s plans will do to local justice in our area.

“They are repeating my concerns that moving criminal hearings move elsewhere it will be harder for local victims to testify, harder for local people to volunteer in court and harder for the press to deter crime by reporting on local cases.

“I’m particularly concerned by the number of local Magistrates who have been in touch to tell me they are seriously considering handing in their resignation. These volunteers are at the heart of local justice, and without them it will be much harder for victims’ voices to be heard in Dudley.

“I’ve called for a debate on this issue in the House of Commons, and I want the Justice Secretary to meet me to discuss local people’s concerns. Over 1,200 local people have signed my petition, sending a clear message to the Government to save Dudley’s criminal court.”

 

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