Last crown court in West Sussex will close

A date has been set for the closure of the last remaining crown court in West Sussex.

A mass protest outside Chichester Crown Court in March. Photo by Derek Martin. SUS-161203-205445008
A mass protest outside Chichester Crown Court in March. Photo by Derek Martin. SUS-161203-205445008

Chichester Magistrates’ Court is expected to close for good at the end of the month, with the city’s crown and county (combined) court to follow in April next year.

It will leave West Sussex and Northumberland as the only counties in England without a crown court.

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Courts have existed in Chichester since 1847, and Mick Jagger and Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones famously appeared in 1967 on drugs charges which they were later cleared of.

A number of Chichester lawyers, councillors and residents mounted a major fight to save the historic courts after news that they will close was announced in February.

HM Courts & Tribunals Service confirmed that Chichester’s Magistrates’ Court is expected to cease listing on September 30, with Crown Court listings expected to cease in March, 2017.

An HMCTS spokesperson said: “We have a world-leading legal system and are investing over £700 million to reform and digitise our courts to deliver swifter justice.

“Closing under-used and dilapidated court buildings will allow us to reinvest in the justice system and make the best use of technology.

“This will improve access to justice and improve the experience for all court users, in particular vulnerable victims and witnesses.”

HMCT added that ‘the decision to close Chichester Combined Court was not taken lightly’ and that work will be distributed primarily to Worthing County Court and Family Court.

In total 86 courts and tribunal buildings of the 460 across England and Wales are being closed, which amounts to nearly a fifth.

The mass closures are part of the government’s ‘modernisation’ plans, which include installing digital systems and reducing costs by £500m a year.

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