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Plans to reduce Magistrate Court sessions in North Devon face criticism

The Magistrate court sessions will be reduced by half Photo: ITV Westcountry

Plans by Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service to reduce the number of Magistrate Court sessions in North Devon from around six or eight a week to three or four has been met with intense criticism and pledges to fight the proposals.

One magistrate, Joan Broad, has even resigned as a result of the suggested changes. She argues that this is actually the beginning of the end.

Custody hearings would be moved to Exeter on two days a week. Trials would only be held in Barnstaple on one day a week. Opponents claim that while this might save money for the court service, other agencies will be left to pick up the bill. They also say there will be the probability that people accused of a crime will be on the same public transport to the Magistrates Court in Exeter as their alleged victim or witnesses.

Councillors, solicitors, probation officers and many other interested parties held a crisis meeting on Friday morning at Barnstaple’s Civic Centre to continue their fight against the plans.

North Devon Council Leader Brian Greenslade told the group that local MP Nick Harvey had taken this matter up with the Justice Minister at Westminster. He also fears that the proposals will ultimately justify its closure.

We can see that strategy, wither on the vine, you know take away some now and later on people will say it’s not viable any longer that’s why we in the North of the county have to fight long and hard to retain these services in our community.”

– Cllr Brian Greenslade, Leader, North Devon Council

Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service has issued a statement on the issue:

Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service, in conjunction with the judiciary, routinely reviews local listings arrangements, taking into account changes in workload, in order to make the best use of resources and facilities for users and taxpayers alike. Barnstaple Magistrates Court no longer has sufficient work to justify sitting every day of the week, but there are no current plans to close the court

– HM Courts and Tribunals Service

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