Standard: anger at court closure
The Henley Standard has launched a campaign to ensure that justice is seen to be done in local courts.
The weekly has enlisted the support of the Magistrates’ Association in exposing in what it describes as "court chaos".
Henley Magistrates’ Court was shut down three years ago and local cases were moved to Thame. When the court at Thame was also closed the workload moved to Oxford.
In a splash report on 16 August, reporter Tom Boyle and news editor David Dawson said Oxford Magistrates’ Court was now closed for two months for long-awaited repair work.
Added to that, they said, the court system was being pushed towards chaos by a lack of staff, lack of money and the effect of Government-imposed street crime initiatives.
With cases going to any one of five courts, the nearest 20 miles away from Henley, the Standard claims justice is no longer seen to be done and the paper’s journalists are being stopped from doing their job.
The Standard said police were often frustrated by cases constantly being postponed and even, according to Henley MP Boris Johnson, "falling by the wayside",.
He told the newspaper: "I’ve talked to the Criminal Prosecution Service and they have admitted they are under tremendous pressure. Cases are not being properly brought or they are scrapped. It’s very frustrating for the police when key witnesses cannot be bothered to turn up because the court is so far away."
Johnson said that if the trend continued ,"it is going to seriously undermine public confidence in the justice system".
The Standard has been told it can no longer be supplied with a list of cases going before the courts – wherever they are.
Thames Valley Magistrates Courts chief executive Colin Clifford said his listing officers were under pressure, "living an absolute nightmare".
In its leader, the Standard said: "In the past we had a reporter sitting in court covering everything; members of the public could also go along and watch justice being handed out.
"Under present conditions, the Standard, like other local papers in the area and throughout the country, finds this no longer possible."
Last week, Magistrates’ Association chairman Harry Mawdsley told the paper: "What you report is simply unacceptable – a diabolical situation.
"I understand there is a particular problem with resources and finding staff at all levels in Thames Valley but open local justice must be preserved at all costs."
By Jean Morgan