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Fears for local justice as magistrates' courts shut.

TWO South Wales magistrates' courts have closed their doors for the last time.

Earlier this year the UK Government announced its decision to close 10 law courts in Wales which were deemed "under used and outdated".

Ministers said they wanted to modernise the court system, increasing the use of technology and making face-toface hearings reserved for the most complex and sensitive cases.

Yesterday Bridgend Magistrates' Court and Pontypridd Magistrates' Court, which was earmarked to shut between July and September, shut for good.

Hearings which would usually be held at Bridgend will now be transferred to Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan Magistrates' Court and Port Talbot Justice Centre.

The closure of Pontypridd will leave Rhondda Cynon Taff without a magistrates' court, after Llwynypia and Aberdare courts shut in 2010.

An HM Courts & Tribunal Services (HMCTS) spokesperson said: "The decision to close a court is never taken lightly, but maintaining underused and dilapidated court buildings is simply unsustainable and costs the taxpayer PS500m a year.

"Access to justice is not just about proximity to a court and we are investing over PS700m to reform and digitise our courts and tribunal services to deliver swifter and more certain justice."

But MP for Bridgend Madeleine Moon says the closure of the Bridgend court will have an impact on the quality of justice as well as employment in the area.

She said: "This is a sad day for Bridgend and the surrounding area. Local people will be forced to undertake long and expensive journeys to attend hearings in Cardiff and Port Talbot and many solicitor firms and legal charities will lose an important source of income and employment.

"I am concerned that the closure will lead to a deterioration in the quality of justice, as it is administered in the local area.

"We can expect more hearings conducted by unreliable video-links, fewer witnesses willing to give evidence and fewer local people willing to serve as Magistrates."

She also said the close proximity of the magistrate system to people's daily lives underpins its legitimacy and authority.

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 30, 2016
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