Huntingdon County Court faces the axe

HUNTINGDON County Court, which hears civil cases, look set to close – just three years after it opened in a new building.

HUNTINGDON County Court, which hears civil cases, look set to close – just three years after it opened in a new building.

The Minister who this week announced consultation on the closure is Huntingdon MP Jonathan Djanogly.

The magistrates’ and crown courts will remain.

A move to close the county court a few years ago was successfully resisted when judges argued that transferring cases to Peterborough would effectively deny justice to poorer claimants and defendants.

In the end, the court moved from its Godwin House office block in George Street across the ring road to the multi-million-pound justice centre that also houses Huntingdon Magistrates’ Court and Huntingdon Crown Court.

It is one of 530 facilities – including the magistrates’ courts at Ely and Wisbech – under discussion for closure. The Ministry of Justice says Huntingdon County Court has civil jurisdiction only and does not deal with bankruptcy, Queen’s Bench, family or care work. The court is not a trials centre and all multi-track cases are currently dealt with at Cambridge County Court.

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Most administrative work supporting the hearings is dealt with by Peterborough Combined Court.

The proposal is to retain Huntingdon as a hearing centre for county court work until a longer-term Peterborough-based system becomes available, the Ministry said.

“Closure as a county court will remove the need for separate accounts and statistical data to be collated and effectively confirm the status quo.”

A district judge currently sits at Huntingdon on one or two days a week, and once a month the court has two district judges dealing with small claims work. If the closure goes ahead, two members of staff will be affected.

Mr Djanogly, the new Courts Minister, said: “When public finances are under pressure, it is vital to eliminate waste and reduce costs. The Government is committed to supporting local justice, enabling justice to be done and seen to be done in our communities.

“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.

“Not all disputes need to be resolved in court. 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.”

The consultation continues until September 15.