BOLTON Magistrates Court has been saved after the Department for Justice confirmed there were no immediate plans to shut it.
The court in Le Mans Crescent was threatened with closure last year as part of a cost-cutting exercise by The Manchester Orbital Branch of the Magistrates Association, who claimed the court was not fit for purpose.
Hundreds of Bolton News readers signed a petition to halt the plans after we launched a campaign to keep the law courts in the town.
And in Parliament on Tuesday, Bolton North East MP David Crausby received assurances from Shailesh Vara, the under-Secretary of State for Justice, that the court was safe.
He said: “As far as I am aware, there are no plans at present as regards Bolton Magistrates Court, but he will appreciate that the court estate has to be kept under review to ensure that it meets operational needs.
“In the event that anything happens, there will be a consultation. Nothing is planned for Bolton Magistrates Court.”
Mr Crausby said he was delighted to learn that the court would not close in the near future.
He added: “I am very pleased that the minister was able to confirm that there are no plans to close our magistrates court.
“A town the size of Bolton deserves local access to justice and we must be willing to protect this in the face of whatever financial challenge the government may put before the courts service in the coming years.”
The Bolton News ran a similar campaign in 2001, when plans were announced by the Greater Manchester Magistrates’ Court Committee to shut it and transfer cases to Bury and other towns.
Cllr Andy Morgan, who has served as a magistrate on Bolton bench for the past 13 years, said he was pleased with the news and thanked Mr Crausby.
He said: “Speaking from a personal point of view I’m delighted.
“The whole point of the magistracy is about local people administering justice, and adding our local know-ledge when we are look-ing at an offence and the consequences of an offence. In my opinion you do need that local knowledge. It’s vital.”
However, Richard Monk-house, chairman of the Magistrates Association, said there was no doubt that the court service would continue to review the use of court houses.
He said: “This is happening alongside a reduction in workload for a number of reasons in magistrates cou-rts all over England and Wales.”