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MoJ looks to shut one fifth of courts across England and Wales as reform consultation kicks off

The Minstry of Justice (MoJ) has  launched a consultation on plans to close one fifth of courts and tribunals across England and Wales in a bid to tackle the issue of ‘underused’ court buildings and to cut costs.

Under a plan published by the MoJ today (16 July) a total of 91 of the 460 court and tribunal buildings will close and a further 31 are to be integrated.

The proposed changes will include the closure of 57 magistrates’ courts, 19 county courts, two crown courts, four tribunal hearing centres and nine combined courts.

A written statement by Courts Minister Shailesh Vara said: ‘The estate costs taxpayers around half a billion pounds each year, and at present, it is underused. Last year over a third of all courts and tribunals were empty for more than fifty per cent of their available hearing time. Today’s consultation puts forward proposals that aim to reduce this surplus capacity.’

The statement added that the buildings being consulted on represent 16% of hearing rooms across the estate which are on average used for only a third of their available time, which is equivalent to fewer than two out of five days in a week.

The consultation is starting today and will run for 12 weeks with a response planned once the MoJ has reviewed submissions.

It follows Lord Chancellor Michael Gove’s recent speech outlining his agenda for judicial reform and tackling the current ‘creaking, outdated’ system that ‘restricts access to high quality resolution of disputes by being too complex, too bureaucratic and too slow.’