§ Mr. Moate
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received about the possible closure of magistrates courts as a consequence of the new funding system: and if he will make it his policy to announce his support for the present structure and network of local courts.
§ Mr. John Patten
We have received a number of representations expressing concern about possible closure of magistrates' courthouses. We are committed to the principle of local summary justice and hence to the maintenance of a network of local courthouses. At the same time it is necessary for magistrates' courts committees, in consultation with their paying authorities, to keep under review the number an dlocation of courthouses in the light of all relevant circumstances, including for example the volume of proceedings heard there; the resources available to support and run them; the physical condition of the accommodation and the work required to achieve good standards of safety, security and facilities for court users; and the effect of closure in terms of cost and convenience for the community concerned and other criminal justice services. The balance between operational efficiency and other considerations has to be judged case by case by courts committees and, in the event of an appeal under section 56 of the Justices of the Peace Act 1979, by the Home Secretary.