A petition has been launched in a bid to save a criminal court, which has been threatened with closure as part of sweeping proposals in the West Midlands.
Ian Austin MP branded plans to shut Dudley Magistrates’ Court to criminal cases as an ‘outrage’ and vowed to fight the proposal.
The Labour MP, who represents Dudley North, voiced his dismay at the proposals, which he said would leave the town without a criminal court for the first time in more than a century.
He says the scheme would also mean Dudley was the largest town in the country without a criminal court and urged people to sign the petition.
All criminal casework would cease at Dudley Magistrates’ Court, in The Inhedge, under the radical overhaul proposed by the Ministry of Justice.
Instead defendants in the region would have to travel to Sandwell and Walsall to have their cases heard. Meanwhile all trials in the Black Country would instead go to Wolverhampton Magistrates’ Court along with youth cases.
Dudley would become a civil, family and tribunal centre under the scheme which is out to consultation until October 21.
Mr Austin today said he feared for redundancies because of the shake-up and said it was another blow to Dudley after its police station was closed overnight.
“These plans are an outrage and should be dropped immediately,” he said.
“Dudley’s police station was closed at night despite opposition from thousands of local people, and now we’re set to lose our criminal court too.
“Dudley would end up the largest town in the UK without a criminal court when we should be moving more services into the town centre, not taking them away. Dudley’s had a criminal court for as long as I can remember, and it’s important justice is seen to be done locally, with local people seeing those who break the law in their community punished.
“If criminal hearings move elsewhere it will be harder for local victims to testify, harder for local people to volunteer in court and harder for the press to deter crime by reporting on local cases. It could also mean that people working in the court have to move or be made redundant.”
Anyone wishing to sign the petition can do so by visiting Mr Austin’s website, contacting him through email at email@example.com or by calling 01384 342504 for a form.
Leading magistrates and solicitors have also raised their concerns about the scheme with the six-week consultation under way. The new arrangements could come into force by January.