At a Full Council meeting on Wednesday evening, 16 July 2014, councillors unanimous gave their support for the return of cases to Bedford Magistrates Court as soon as possible.
Bedfordshire Justices Issues Group decided earlier this year that all Bedfordshire adult and youth crime, local authority civil (non-family) and crime cases and probation cases should be listed at Luton Magistrates’ Court from June 2014.
Presenting the motion to Council, Councillor Colleen Atkins said:
“It is important that all cases are brought back to Bedford Magistrates’ Court as soon as possible. It’s a matter of local justice and fairness to all. The loss of local justice is a grave concern.”
“The decision to move cases to Luton is detrimental to local justice and deprives citizens of Bedford Borough of the right to have their case heard locally. It means increased costs, transport issues, travel time and inconvenience with implications for defendants, victims, witnesses and advocates. This is leading to an increased likelihood of non-attendance and the consequential impact on court business. All these points were raised to the Justices Issues Group by numerous stakeholder groups, but they dismissed them and pressed ahead with the changes.”
“It also means the loss of magistrates’ important, local knowledge, which can have an impact on the delivery of justice.”
“Also, the population growth in and around Bedford Borough should be a strong consideration for listings to remain at Bedford Magistrates’ Court.”
"We acknowledge and appreciate the efforts to date by our MPs, local people and organisations.
“We need to maintain pressure to reverse the decision and reinstate all listings to Bedford Magistrates Court as soon as possible.”
Councillor Atkins continued:
“The die is NOT cast and the decision of the Justices Issues Group is one they themselves said should be reviewed at a later date. But why should people have to endure months of inconvenience and expense and loss of local justice before this is reviewed?”
The motion was unanimously supported by Councillors, and they passed the resolution to request that tha:
"The Chief Executive write to the Judicial Business Group, and to the Under Secretary of State for Justice; firstly to express Bedford Borough Council’s grave concern that the new listing arrangements are detrimental to local justice and deprive citizens of Bedford Borough of the right to have their case heard locally and secondly to request that the former listing arrangements are reinstated as a matter of urgency."
Report of the Justices Issues Group response to consultation: