Leaders join forces to fight against Chichester law court closures

Edward Cooke, Sara Fildes, Edward Hand, Louise Goldsmith, Peter Budge and His Honour Judge Robin Barratt.
Edward Cooke, Sara Fildes, Edward Hand, Louise Goldsmith, Peter Budge and His Honour Judge Robin Barratt.
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Removing law courts in a city that has had access to justice since the 12th century will ‘destroy local heritage’, according to Chichester’s former circuit judge.

This bold statement was one of many passionate speeches heard at a public meeting held to fight against the closure of West Sussex’s only crown court.

His honour, judge Robin Barratt QC, took the stand on Tuesday, September 27, to say that the ‘removal, destruction and abandonment’ of the system of justice in this county, with all its historical context, is ‘astonishing’.

“The problem we have today in 21st century is a failure to understand history,” said judge Barratt.

“How can a system we have valued throughout centuries, which has made us who we are today, be destructed on the value of money?”

The retired senior judge continued to say that the process in which the decision was made to close the combine courts had been ‘questionable’.

“This cathedral city is the sort of place where justice in this country was developed,” added judge Barratt.

“This was one of the finest courts in the country – the courtesy, the speed and the efficiency, now it has been destroyed.”

Chichester’s magistrates’ court is set to close this Friday, September 30, with the combined crown and county court due to close its doors in March next year.

Local dignitaries are now fighting to turn the current magistrates court into a combined crown and county court to retain access to justice within West Sussex.

At the meeting at Chichester Assembly Rooms, leader of West Sussex County Council, Louise Goldsmith said: “As a local member I am deeply saddened for my residents.

“I am angry that they might have to go all over the country to help the justice process – this is not right.

She added: “I will keep shouting with all the other councillors for something I believe is wrong.”

Barrister Edward Hand from Resolution Sussex agreed, adding that the idea you can recreate a court room environment through video link is ‘preposterous’.

City councillor Sarah Sharp will be holding a vigil on Friday, September 30, for the closure of the magistrates’ court and welcomes people attend dressed in black.