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Government to close 143 courts

Government to close 143 courts

More than 140 courts are to be shut in England and Wales, the justice minister has announced.

Some 93 magistrates' courts and 49 county courts, many which remain idle for long periods of time, will be closed, MPs were told.

The Government will spend £22 million improving and modernising other courts which will take on extra cases following the closures.

Outlining the programme, Jonathan Djanogly said: "Failures in the last decade to manage the courts estate properly have led to a service which is unsustainable at any time, let alone in the current financial circumstances.

"It is unsustainable that in 2009/10 our 330 magistrates' courts sat for less than two thirds of their available time and that courtrooms in our 219 county courts sat on average for only 180 days a year.

"It is unacceptable that dozens of buildings, never intended and not fit for the requirements of the modern courts system are still being used.

"And it is undesirable that in the current financial position that the taxpayer continues to fund buildings that offer outdated and inadequate facilities to victims and indeed to witnesses."

Mr Djanogly said the plans would only "very slightly" reduce the percentage of the population able to access their nearest court – although the figure he used was for journeys that would take up to an hour. This would now fall from just under 90% to 85%.

Labour attacked the closure programme, branding it a "wholesale destruction" of the foundations of British justice.

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