What happens in Cambridgeshire will stay in Cambridgeshire under plans to end Fenland defendants appearing before Norfolk courts
- Credit: Archant
Criminals from the Fens will no longer appear before magistrates in Kings Lynn but their cases will be heard in Peterborough instead, if proposed changes go ahead.
The Ministry of Justice says its wants to “eliminate the expense and inefficiency” for agencies based in Cambridgeshire to have to travel to Norfolk.
A public consultation has begun to switch all cases to Peterborough that the ministry believes will give improved access to Cambridgeshire based services for defendants and victims.
“It will also eliminate a source of error in dealing with defendants for breach of community orders and suspended sentences,” says the ministry.
Magistrates, court users, stakeholders and public authorities, charities and business within the immediate areas concerned are being asked for their views.
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The magistrates’ court in Wisbech was closed four years ago when it was agreed that all criminal cases from the town and six surrounding parishes should go to Kings Lynn.
The MoJ says that in the ensuing years this has led to a number of problems for agencies “and in some cases has significantly increased the travelling time for defendants, witnesses and others”.
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Difficulties experienced by the current system include:
Youth offending service staff from Cambridgeshire have to travel to Kings Lynn to deal with cases involving young people from Wisbech
Police in Fenland have to arrange for defendants in custody to appear before courts in Huntingdon, Peterborough and Norwich
Traffic prosecutions are dealt with in Stevenage and prosecutors therefore have to travel to present Wisbech cases in Norwich
Victims of domestic violence in most of Cambridgeshire get independent domestic violence advisers to help them; this is not the case for victims from Fenland who are dealt with in Kings Lynn
Fenland Council has to send staff to present cases in before magistrates in Peterborough and Kings Lynn; the numbers dealt with in the latter court is low “making this a very inefficient process”.
The MoJ says the main reason for using Kings Lynn originally was to reduce travel but “changes in the criminal justice landscape have reduced or eliminated that benefit”.
While Kings Lynn to Wisbech is close than other Cambridgeshire courts, the MoJ says it is only seven miles extra to Peterborough and public transport and travel times are not much different.