Controversial plans to cease criminal cases at a court will be reviewed following opposition from magistrates, it emerged today.
Dudley Magistrates’ Court would be stripped of its criminal casework as part of a shake-up put forward by the Ministry of Justice.
The proposals had come under fire from magistrates, who claimed they had not been consulted, and hundreds of people have signed a petition against the move. But Dudley North MP Ian Austin, who has also campaigned against the proposals, revealed today that a review of the plans would be carried out.
It will be led by Michael Seath, Justices Clerk for the West Midlands, and other members of the local Justice Issues Group made up of magistrates and court staff.
Revised proposals will then be drawn up and published after November 15.
Mr Austin welcomed the news, saying: “I’m pleased our campaign has been listened to and that these plans will go back to the drawing board.
“I want to thank all the campaigners who wrote to me about this issue, signed the petition and objected to the closure in the consultation. But we need to continue fighting for these plans to be dropped completely.”
A spokeswoman for Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service confirmed a review was taking place by the local Justice Issues Group.
She said: “The judiciary, in conjunction with HMCTS and criminal justice partners, routinely reviews local listing arrangements, taking into account changes in workloads, to ensure the best use of our resources.
“Due to the response to a recent consultation on listing arrangements for magistrates’ courts in the Black Country the local Justice Issues Group has decided to review the proposals and produce a revised consultation paper.” Mr Austin said the move would hit victims and witnesses who would have to travel further.
The preferred Ministry of Justice proposal would see Wolverhampton Magistrates’ Court do all trials and youth cases in the Black Country, with Walsall and Sandwell splitting the rest of the workload,while Dudley would become a civil, family and tribunal centre under the scheme.
Mr Austin said the loss of the criminal court would be another blow to the town after its police station was closed overnight.
A 1,200-strong petition has been presented by campaigners, led by Mr Austin, who also fears the move will result in redundancies.
It called for a debate on the issue in the House of Commons.