Bedford Borough Councillor Colleen Atkins writes: "I was pleased to attend the meeting about reinstating Bedford Magistrates Court listings this week organised by Bedfordshire on Sunday
It was enlightening to receive the update from Richard Fuller and hear the views of legal professionals. The news was extremely worrying and has reinforced my fears that the current process will lead to the closure of Bedford Magistrates Court via the back door.
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, legal representatives and advocates.
There is a concern this is leading to an increased likelihood of non-attendance by defendants and witnesses 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 anyway.
Another major concern is the loss of Bedford magistrates’ important, local knowledge which can have an impact on the delivery of justice. The population growth in and around Bedford Borough should be a strong consideration for listings to remain at Bedford Magistrates’ Court.
When I spoke on this subject in February and presented a motion to Full Council in July, which received unanimous support, I was under the impression the die is not cast and the decision of the JBG is one which they themselves said should be reviewed at a later date. I am dismayed to hear this may not now be the case and the review is in doubt.
Where is the justice for Bedford people?
The original consultation was held last December – a time when many people miss important news and announcements so it’s not surprising there was little response to it. We cannot let that happen again.
I acknowledge the efforts to date by our MPs, organisations and local people – and I applaud Beds on Sunday for publicised the concerns and keeping the campaign in the public eye.
We need to shout loudly about the injustice and maintain pressure to reverse the decision and reinstate all listings to Bedford Magistrates Court as soon as possible."
Read more at http://www.bedfordshire-news.co.uk/COMMENT-justice-Bedford-people/story-23010928-detail/story.html#EZps0JWE6QAkbwO5.99