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MP urges people to sign up and say no to Dudley court changes
9:00am Tuesday 24th September 2013 in News
DUDLEY'S MP has launched a campaign to fight controversial plans to stop criminal cases being heard in the town.
A consultation is under way on changes to the court system in the Black Country and, if the Ministry of Justice gets its way, trials would only be heard in Wolverhampton.
Ian Austin MP has blasted the idea, which would mean Dudley only deals with civil, family and tribunal cases.
He said: "Victims and witnesses will have difficulty in travelling further a-field. In Dudley the vast majority of people share my concerns.
“Dudley’s had a criminal court for as long as I can remember, and it’s important justice is seen to be done locally, with local people seeing those who breaks the law in their community punished."
Dudley dealt with fewer criminal cases than other magistrates' courts in the region with just over 5,000 between April 2012 and March 2013.
During the same period magistrates in Wolverhampton dealt with 9,104, Sandwell heard 8,760 and Walsall and Aldridge dealt with 6,269.
A spokesperson for the Magistrates Association said: “It is inevitable in the current climate of budget constraints that changes have to be made but this should only happen after full consultation.
"Naturally we would prefer justice to be delivered in local communities for local people but recognise this is not always going to be possible.”
One of the most experienced lawyers to work at Dudley Magistrates' Court thinks it is likely law firms will migrate out of Dudley if the plan is approved.
Solicitor Michael Davies, a senior partner at Sanders & Co in Hagley Road, Stourbridge, said: “It’s very, very disappointing but part of a recurring theme in an attempt to save money - as to whether they will save money remains to be seen.
“What they’re doing doesn’t make an awful lot of sense from the outside.”
Mr Davies, who was a duty solicitor at the borough’s courts for 27 years, added: “Those clients I used to act for – some of whom have very significant difficulties regarding addiction and come from areas of deprivation - are going to find it difficult to get to court.”
Ian Austin, who has started a petition against the change, said: "I’m collecting signatures from local people so we can send a clear message to the government that their plans are dangerous and unwanted.
"Anyone who wants to sign the petition can do so by visiting my website, by emailing me at email@example.com or by calling my office on 01384 342504 and we’ll send out a form.”
Mr Austin will also be in Dudley town centre collecting names for the petition from noon on Saturday September 28.
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