Court cases dumped in Dewsbury as Huddersfield gets 560k makeover.

Issue 502

HUNDREDS of cases are being moved to Dewsbury’s soontobeaxed magistrates’ court while Huddersfield’s ageing legal buildings get a £560,000 makeover.
The massive outlay, which is another slap in the face for Dewsbury, will see a major renovation project start on Monday to make Huddersfield suitable for the extra workload it is due to take on.
The threemonth project means their magistrates’ court will eventually have the space and facilities to hear all of Dewsbury’s cases when the purposebuilt court facility here shuts in late March.
The Huddersfield refurb includes three permanent secure docks, while the number of interview rooms is being doubled.
But it ironically it means hearings are being switched to Dewsbury – one of 103 courts being shut nationally to save money – in the short term.
Workloads at the court are set to soar as cases from all over Kirklees are heard in the town.
Coun Paul Kane (Lab, Dewsbury East) said: “It’s madness. I’m sure Dewsbury, which is a modern purposebuilt court, wouldn’t need so much work.”
The Dewsbury Regeneration Board chairman added the closure would damage efforts to get the town back on its feet after years in the doldrums.
He said: “I’m sure the Government never took into consideration the underlaying ramifications of what they were doing.
“A lot of traders in Dewsbury, from sandwich shops to stationers, are going to be hit when the court staff transfer to Huddersfield.”
Dewsbury Law Society president Andrew Hill, of Helliwell, Pasley and Brewer, said any cash savings would be wiped out by extra costs like legal aid.
He pointed to the transport costs involved in getting to Huddersfield from areas like Birstall for those who do not have a car.
Mr Hill said: “One justification was the good train service from Dewsbury to Huddersfield, but it’s how someone gets to the train that matters.
“And anyone on legal aid would be able to claim those travelling costs back from the public purse, so it will cost taxpayers more in the longrun.”            
A courts service spokesman said local issues, like the efforts to regenerate Dewsbury, were not considered when deciding which ones to close.
He added: “The utilisation at both Dewsbury and Huddersfield is significantly below the optimum of 80 per cent usage.
“Dewsbury is a modern building, but it doesn’t have the courtroom capacity of Huddersfield, so would be less able to accommodate the work of both.
“Keeping underutilised courts open is not a good use of taxpayers’ money. Resources must be targeted in order to provide value for money.
“The closure of Dewsbury Magistrates’ Court will mean court services in the area is much more costeffective.”
Some court staff and magistrates currently working in Dewsbury will transfer over to Huddersfield in March. Dewsbury county court, which has been in the town since 1846, is also due to close next year as part of the Governmentís programme of cuts.

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