Court Cuts Threaten Access to Justice for Copeland

New analysis by Copeland MP Jamie Reed has shown that those living in Copeland could be the worst affected by Government plans for court closures.  The Government’s own analysis has been shown to underestimate the impact of the closure on those currently travelling from Copeland to the court in Workington, who will now have to travel much further.

The Government have launched a consultation on court closures and West Cumbria Magistrates’ and County Court in Workington is one of the 57 courts threatened with closure.  The Government’s impact assessments have revealed that the planned changes in the North West will have the biggest impact on travel times between courts than anywhere else in the country.  Those using West Cumbria Magistrates’ Court will be hit particularly hard.

The impact assessment shows that the distance between the closing courts and the court people will be expected to use.  The average distance between these courts in the North West is 13.7 miles, but the distance between West Cumbria Magistrates’ and Carlisle & District Magistrates’ Court is 32 miles – more than 2.3 times the average.

The distances involved for those living in Copeland are even bigger, with people expected to travel further.  Government documents explain that people in West Cumbria will travel to either Carlisle or Barrow.  People in Copeland will be expected to travel further to access courts than anyone else in the entire region – despite the North West already feeling the brunt of court closures.

Court
Distance (miles)
Time to travel (mins) (Car)
Time to travel (mins) (Public Transport)
Whitehaven
Barrow
45
87
94
Carlisle
38
57
107
Egremont
Barrow
39
74
121
Carlisle
43
68
110
Cleator Moor
Barrow
42
79
147
Carlisle
39
63
132

The average length of public transport journey people will be expected to take to a nearby court in the North West is one hour, but in Copeland, the journey will be at least an hour and half, but for most people it will be much longer than this.  For those driving, the average journey length will be over 70 minutes and the nearest parking at the court in Carlisle is over half a mile from the court itself.

West Cumbria Magistrates’ Court costs less than half what it costs to operate other courts in the region and Copeland MP Jamie Reed says the planned closure is ‘unjustifiable’ as it ‘based on half-baked assumptions’.  He has called on the Government to ‘go back to the drawing board’.

Copeland MP and Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, Jamie Reed MP said:

“The Government’s planned closure of West Cumbria Magistrates’ Court is completely unjustifiable.  It cannot be right to expect people to travel for hours to access justice in our community.  Even by the Government’s estimates, more than half of people will have to travel up to two hours to get to their nearest court when currently no one has to travel more than an hour.

“The Government’s impact assessment is based on half-baked assumptions and doesn’t take into account the number of people in Copeland travelling to Workington to access the court and the additional time it will take these people to get to Carlisle or Barrow.  This is before traffic delays are taken into account. 

“This is a further demonstration that the Government have no understanding of the unique transport challenges facing our community.  It is time for the Government to go back to the drawing board.  I will be writing to the Secretary of State for Justice to insist he scraps the planned closure.”
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