End is nigh for Honiton Magistrates’ Court

After years of speculation, a squeeze on public spending looks set to put final nail in court’s coffin.

AFTER years of speculation, Honiton Magistrates’ Court looks set to finally close.

Just hours after Lynda Price, an independent member of Devon and Cornwall Police Authority, warned courts faced the axe in Government budget cuts, it was announced a final consultation is being launched to decide the Dowell Street building’s fate.

The court has not heard criminal cases on a regular basis for some years and is now used only occasionally – to hear inquests and deal with cases brought by the likes of Devon Trading Standards.

Courts Minister Jonathan Djanogly said today (Thursday): “When public finances are under pressure, it is vital to eliminate waste and reduce costs.

“The arrangements we have are historical and now need to be re-assessed to ask whether they properly meet the needs of communities as they are today – we increasingly use the internet and email to communicate and access services and we travel further to work, for leisure and to do our weekly shop. We now have the opportunity to think afresh about how we can create a more modern, fit-for-purpose justice system in line with the way we live our lives today.”

And, as the Midweek Herald supports calls for a community justice panel to be established in Honiton, Mr Djanogly added: “Not all disputes need to be resolved in court.

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“I want to explore whether more people can resolve their disputes in a way that leads to faster and more satisfactory solutions.

“Across the civil, family and criminal courts I want to explore ways we can harness technology more effectively so people don’t necessarily have to physically attend court when they give evidence or access court services.

“We should not think about access to justice as simply a question of length of the journey to the nearest court. In the future, we need to look at whether through the more effective use of video and telephone links and other technology including online services, we can improve the public’s experience of the justice system.”