Councillors present voted unanimously in favour of holding the public event to examine the future of the city’s courts, provided members of the legal profession were free to attend as expert speakers.
The motion, proposed by Cllr Claire Apel, follows concerns that West Sussex residents could have to travel long distances for Crown Court proceedings if the courthouse closes.
Cllr Richard Plowman said: “We had an excellent meeting here with the solicitors and with two judges and the amount of information they gave was actually quite revealing.
“That information we heard, particularly from the judges, ought to be imparted to a much larger audience.”
While all councillors were keen the city retain the service provided by the courts, it was agreed a meeting without legal experts would not be effective.
Cllr Nigel Galloway said: “We can certainly have a protest meeting, I think people will come along and say yes, it’s a terrible shame, we must keep the courts, but we should have experts there, we need experts there to go through the decision with us, stage by stage.”
He added that the council should also write to the Department of Justice. “If they don’t send a representative along to explain their decision, then that will speak volumes,” he said.
A time window of three months was proposed by Cllr Anne Scicluna so as not to ‘miss the boat’. Mayor Peter Budge said he did not wish for the meeting proposal to be discounted if a date was not found in that time frame.
But Cllr Tony Dignum said the ‘case was lost’. He said: “If we have a public meeting it will be a pointless exercise. The man in charge of the Department of Justice is the one who shut the courts in Chichester for at least ten years.”
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