Pontefract Magistrates’ Court will close next March – 18 months ahead of schedule.
The adult, youth and family court on Front Street was scheduled to be axed in September 2014.
It was earmarked to close as part of plans revealed in July 2010 to close 98 magistrates’ courts and 49 county courts.
But a spokesman for HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) said yesterday: “Following a change in circumstances at Pontefract Magistrates’ Court – including the loss of cell accommodation, and after discussions between the Bench Chairman and local management team – it has been decided to bring the date of the court closure forward to March 2013.”
Yvette Cooper, MP for Pontefract, Castleford and Normanton, said: “Closing Pontefract Magistrates Court like this is absolute madness. It’s bad for local justice and local communities. Local people who have been victims or witnesses of crimes or antisocial behaviour have made it very clear that they don’t want to travel all the way to Wakefield to get justice. And there isn’t enough room at Wakefield Court so people will have to wait longer for a hearing too.
This is completely unacceptable and I’ll be pressing the government to give us an straight answer immediately.”
The HMCTS spokesman added: “ All criminal cases currently heard in Pontefract will transfer to Wakefield Magistrates’ Court. The opening of the Wakefield Civil Justice Centre in January will see all Family Proceedings Court work within the existing Magistrates Court Houses at Wakefield & Pontefract transfer to the new centre.
“These arrangements will mean court services in the area are much more cost-effective. The standard of accommodation and the facilities provided at Pontefract Magistrates’ Court fall short of the minimum requirement for the provision of services expected by our customers.
“The distance between Pontefract and Wakefield is less than ten miles and there is a good transport network linking the two.”