Writing to the Ministry of Justice the charity says local justice in the form of court and tribunal services is as important to the community as health, education, blue light and environmental services.
Chris Blockey, Court Desk and Debt Supervisor, said
“This plan will reduce access to justice for more of our clients and their families who will find it impossible to attend hearings miles away from their homes.
“For example, people on low incomes, or in poor health, facing action for rent arrears will be badly affected. Now their cases are heard locally and there are support networks to help them and the court find the best way forward. If the courts close, they will be at more risk of eviction with all the disruption and extra cost that means for them, their families and housing providers.
“The community too will be poorer. The cost of the council’s responsibility to house the homeless is certain to rise and the value of well-established social support networks will be reduced.”
Citizens Advice is responding to a consultation by the Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service: “Proposal on the provision of court and tribunal estate in England and Wales”.
We are responding to the consultation as it affects East Surrey through the proposed closure of courts at Redhill and Reigate and proposed transfer of provision to west-central Surrey (Guildford) and north-west Surrey (Staines).
Our research shows a Redhill resident potentially facing a 52 mile round-trip to a hearing in Guildford or a return train journey to Staines costing £19. In the latter example the reasonable wish for the company of a family member or friend would raise the total cost to a level that would deter many people on low income from attending.
The response highlights the impact of the proposal on access to justice through our special knowledge of people who face housing possession actions, their families, social support networks, landlords, and housing providers.
We hope the consultation will lead to the Redhill and Reigate courts being retained or, prior to closure, provision of equivalent access to justice through other means.