Local charity concerned about impact of increased online processes and travel
Wandsworth County Court on the Upper Richmond Road is to close, the Goverment announced today (July 24th).
The Ministry of Justice says the savings from seven courts being closed across the country - including Wandsworth and Blackfriars in London - will be reinvested into reform.
The decision follows public consultations and the Ministry says that all courts were assessed on the basis of ensuring access to justice, delivering value for money and the ability to offer efficiency in the long term. A £1 billion Government investment in reforming and modernising courts and tribunals has concentrated on moving to online systems for minor pleas, the preparation of case files and small money claims, as well as applications for divorce and probate.
However local legal charity, South West London Law Centres, is warning that the closure will affect the ability to 'have their day in court' and get justice.
The charity says that Wandsworth services will be moved to other County Courts such as Kingston, Clerkenwell and Shoreditch, "This wave of closures comes after over 120 courts were closed and sold off over the previous seven years.
"In their place the Government is pursuing a 'modernisation' drive of the remaining court estate, intended to deliver further savings through staf layoffs, and to move most interaction with the courts online."
Despite the fact that Justice Secretary and Lord Chancelor David Gauke has pledged that all money received from the sale of the court buildings will be reinvested in the justice system, the charity is concerned that residents already struggling financially will have to travel further to court and that the closure will affect local charitable services. Client Services Manager Shyam Popat says, "We are well established locally, with strong local knowledge and ties with other support services. Local judges and court staff know to refer people to us so they can help earlier... a remote court would not have the benefit of all this, and it is mainly people on the brink who would lose out and fall through the net."
July 24, 2018