Campaign launched to fight Chichester court closures

Sarah Sharp, centre, is raising awareness
Sarah Sharp, centre, is raising awareness

BATTLELINES are being drawn across Chichester to fight the closure of the law courts.

The announcement last week has sent shock waves across the city.

Chichester Magistrates' Court will close and the workload will move to Worthing and Horsham

Chichester Magistrates' Court will close and the workload will move to Worthing and Horsham

MP Andrew Tyrie has described the move as ‘little short of a scandal’ and high profile lawyers have voiced concerns about the ‘devastating’ effect on the community.

The Chichester and District Law Society was due to hold an emergency meeting last night (Wednesday) to decide what action to take.

Society president Maria Monan said: “The committee are joining forces with local chambers to try and further oppose the closure of Chichester Court, which we all feel will be devastating for the local community.”

And city councillor for Chichester South Sarah Sharp is organising an event to raise public awareness.

She is inviting people to hold hands round the Law Courts on Saturday, March 12 at midday: “We managed to save our hospital - perhaps we can do the same for the law courts? However we will need to get a good crowd of people motivated,” she said.

Edward Cooke, vice chairman of the West Sussex branch of Resolution, the national organisation of family law professionals has warned the closure will lead to ‘yet more crowded courts, more delays and, overall, a very poor experience for court users.’

Mr Cooke, a Chichester law solicitor and mediator at Anderson Rowntree said: “ The proposed cuts are both illogical and misconceived. If they go ahead, they will also effectively strip away a key element of Chichester’s county town status.”

“As family law professionals, we help people who are going through some of the most difficult circumstances. If these cuts go ahead, people who are already under tremendous strain will be forced to travel very long distances to access justice.

“The removal of the Chichester courts will mean no local justice facility for people in the Chichester area.” He also said the ability of other courts to absorb Chichester’s work had not been addressed.

He is working closely with other bodies, including the Chichester and District Law Society and Pallant Chambers, on how to respond to the government’s plans.

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